Know your rights
A retailer may let you return a product for a cash refund, an exchange or a credit note as part of their terms of trade. The terms of any refunds or exchanges must be clearly displayed in a notice or on their website. They may also do this to foster customer goodwill, but give you a credit note rather than a refund.
If you change your mind about a product or service, you are not automatically entitled to a refund or exchange.
You do have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act if the products or services supplied by a business are faulty.
Otherwise, your rights to cancel and get a refund or exchange depend on:
- specific sales such as door to door sales, laybys and mail order sales
- credit sales of products or services
- what was said about them before, during or after they were supplied (false advertising and sales promotions)
- ‘right of return’ guarantee offered
- whether the contract for services allows for cancellations
- unfair conduct, where the other party took advantage of your weaker situation and the resulting contract is extremely unfair (undue influence or unconscionable bargains).
Returns, repairs and refunds
If the products have a minor issue, it is up to the business to fix the problem and choose to repair, replace or refund your money.
You have rights to choose a refund, exchange, repairs and compensation if:
- there’s something seriously wrong with the products (including safety)
- the products substantially do not match the sales description or sample
- the products are not fit for their normal or specific purpose that you stated, or as told to you by the trader, and can’t easily be put right.
For minor issues that are not fixed properly or the business refuses to do so, you may get a refund, a replacement, or seek repairs elsewhere and claim the money back from the business. You can also do this if the business hasn’t responded in a reasonable time.
Sellers do not have to give refunds, repairs, credit or exchanges if:
- you examined the products before buying them and ought to have seen a very obvious fault
- the defects were notified or displayed with the products, such as labelled as seconds or faults specified on the sales ticket
- you damage the products or misuse them in a way that they were not meant to be used.
Read Faulty products to find out more.
If the services have a minor issue it is up the business to fix the problem within a reasonable time at no cost to you. For minor issues that are not fixed properly or the business refuses to do so, you may:
- get someone else to fix them and claim the costs back from the business
- cancel the contract for service and refuse to pay for the work done, or pay less than the agreed price. If you have already paid you may be able to get some or all of your money back.
You can also do this if the business hasn’t responded in a reasonable time.
For more serious issues that can't be fixed easily or are unsafe, you can cancel the contract of service and refuse to pay for the work done. If you have already paid you may be able to get some or all of your money back. The amount to be refunded depends on whether some of the service was satisfactory.
Sellers do not have to give refunds, repairs, if:
- you don’t make it clear to a service provider what you wanted done (unless this was obvious from the circumstances)
- you insisted on having the service carried out in a particular way but don’t like the result.
Read Faulty or unsatisfactory services to find out more.
No refund signs
Signs that say ‘no refunds’ are illegal as they mislead you about your legal rights if products or services are faulty. But it is legal for a shop to say, ‘Choose carefully as we do not refund if you change your mind. If the products are faulty, we will meet our obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act.’
The terms and conditions of refund policies usually say:
- you have a limited time to return the products
- products can be exchanged for other products or a credit note
- proof of purchase is required, eg receipts, or eftpos, debit card or credit card statements.
Cooling off periods for specific sales
Some types of sales such as layby sales, unsolicited products and services and door to door sales have special legal protections under the Fair Trading Act to allow you to change your mind after the sale (cooling-off periods).
You can cancel the contract in certain situations, eg within five working days (cooling off period) if you have had full disclosure of the key terms and your rights, or at any time if you have not had full disclosure.
Read Cancelling your credit contract to find out more.
Contracts for services
Usually once you have agreed on a contract for services, it is binding upon both parties. If you don’t want to carry on with the contract or you don’t comply with your obligations under the contract, you will be in breach of contract. But there are some exceptions that may apply to your situation.
Read Changing contracts or quotes to find out more.
Taking advantage unfairly
If you have a special disadvantage such as sickness, age, physical or mental incapacity, illiteracy, or intoxication, the courts can cancel the contract if the other party knowingly took advantage of this.
Read Forming contracts and agreements to find out more.