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Returns and refunds

Bought something and now you want to take it back? We explain your consumer rights.

For advice that’s more specific to your situation, our paying members can contact our Consumer Advice Line. Our advisers will talk you through your rights and help you resolve problems with a retailer or service provider.

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The basics

Usually when you buy things the contract is final. You don't have the right to return goods and exchange them or get a refund simply because you've changed your mind or your circumstances have changed.

Say you bought yourself a smartphone. What if:

  • Your partner bought you one as a surprise on the same day. Can you take one of them back?
  • You lost your job, so can no longer afford it. Can you return it?
  • You really wanted a pink one. Can you swap?
  • The same phone is $100 cheaper in the shop next door. Can you get a refund?

The answer to all these questions is no. But keep reading.

Exceptions to the rule

You are entitled to return an item in the following circumstances:

Credit contract cooling-off period
Say you signed up to buy a washing machine under a store finance deal. They haven't delivered it yet and it's less than 3 days since you were given your copy of the credit contract. You can cancel both the credit contract and the contract to buy the machine. See Borrowers' rights for more information about this.

Special agreement
You'll be able to return a product if, before purchase, the shop agreed to a special deal that you could return it if you changed your mind. Usually tags must still be attached, boxes must still be sealed and the item unused.

Door-to-door sales
You have 5 working days to cancel a door-to-door sale if you change your mind for any reason. The trader must provide a full refund if you cancel.

Store policy
Some stores have a no-questions-asked exchange policy for customers who change their mind. This usually means you can swap for another item or a credit note. Occasionally a store returns policy allows you a refund but this is up to the store.

A sign in the store that just says 'no refunds' is illegal. This is because it may mislead you about your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

If all else fails, negotiate!
Just because you don't have the right to return the item or get a refund, you can still ask the store. Many retailers are happy to oblige anyway, to keep their customers happy.

Serious faults

If an item has a serious fault then you are allowed to return it. See our full report on the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) for more details.

Generally a serious fault means a reasonable consumer wouldn't have bought the product if they'd known about the fault. The CGA also applies if the item can't be easily repaired, is unsafe, doesn't match its description or demo sample, or isn't fit for the product's normal purpose.

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Got a problem?

The Consumer Advice Line is available to all our members for support on any consumer-related issue. Our expert advisers can explain your rights and help you resolve problems with a retailer. Become a member now from just $9.95 and let us help you get a resolution.

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