A business doesn’t have to let you return an item if you have changed your mind or your circumstances have changed. However, some stores have their own in-store policy to offer a refund, exchange or credit note for ‘change-of-mind’ purchases.
Before you buy
Check the retailer’s returns policy or terms and conditions
Some retailers will let you return products for a cash refund, an exchange or a credit note. Before you buy, ask the shop about their exchange or refund policy, or read their terms and conditions if you are buying online. If you later change your mind, you will need to refer to these. Retailers can choose not to include items on special or on sale in their refund policy.
Check the terms of the contract for services
If you cancel a booking or appointment before any services are commenced, you have still entered into a contract and if they have suffered a loss they may be able to charge you. Also, read the service provider’s contract or their terms and conditions to check your ability to end the contract for different reasons.
Read Changing contracts or quotes to find out more.
Ask for an exchange card
If you buy a gift, you can ask for an exchange card to give with the gift. If the recipient doesn’t like the gift, they can go back to the shop or online store and exchange it. Exchange cards usually have an expiry date. This date is important to know because a shop or online store is not obliged to honour an exchange card after that date.
Read Gift vouchers and laybys to find out more.
Buying 'on appro'
Cash approval, or buying products ‘on appro’, means you can take the products home without committing to buying them. Usually you pay for the products, but you can return them in the same condition for a full refund within a day or other specified period. If you damage the products whilst "on appro" the shop can make you pay for the damage or insist that you buy the products.
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.
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.
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 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.
Read Faulty 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.
If things go wrong
Contact the retailer or manufacturer
Go back to the retailer or manufacturer to sort out the problem first.
Businesses or private sellers do not have to agree to a return or refund, but may do so if this is clearly part of their trade policy or to foster customer goodwill. They may instead issue you with a credit note rather than a refund. Contact the business or private seller and request an exchange or a refund of your money. It will help if the product is still in its original state and if you have a receipt, bank statement or other evidence (such as original packaging as proof of purchase).
Read our Problem solving guide to find out more.
If you are unable to resolve your issue directly with the retailer, manufacturer or service provider, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.
Resolve it: Faulty products and services
Need more help?
Contact us for more guidance.
Reason for return
John buys a large-screen smart TV which has the ability to surf the internet. John buys the TV expecting he just has to turn the TV on and he’ll be able to connect to the internet, without realising he also needs a connection through one of the ISP providers. This is not covered under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
Partner doesn’t want the smartphone
Mary bought a smartphone for her partner from a big retailer, and it is not what he wanted. Can she return it? No, unless the retailer has a returns policy that allows this.
Can’t afford a purchase on Trade Me
Brenda hits ‘Buy now’ on Trade Me for a second-hand computer sold by Grant. The next day Brenda loses her job so she can’t afford to pay for it. She will have to contact Grant to see if he will agree to cancel the sale. It’s a binding sale contract so he can refuse.
Better deal elsewhere
Fred buys some cheap headphones on a New Zealand online electronics website. Afterwards he finds out that including delivery costs they are more expensive than locally. He wants to cancel the sale but unless the website terms and conditions have a refund policy that allows this, he will not be able to. He can also challenge the sale in the Disputes Tribunal if the advertising was misleading.