Know your rights with refunds

Take the guesswork out of refunds and swaps

With one in every two Australians unaware of their rights when making a purchase¹ and with the inevitable return of thousands of gifts after Christmas, CHOICE says people should know where they stand when it comes to refunds and exchanges. 

The people’s watchdog says, if goods are faulty or don’t do what they were advertised to do for a reasonable period of time, the customer is entitled to a refund, exchange or repair. This is the case even if the item has been purchased online or in a sale.

“Don’t let the store brush you off by saying you have to deal with the manufacturer – the store where you bought the  item must sort the problem out for you,” says CHOICE spokesperson, Ingrid Just.

CHOICE says consumers should not be deterred by ‘No Refunds’ signs if they are returning faulty goods. These signs are illegal and can’t take away a customer’s right to a refund if the item is defective or doesn't match the advertised description.

“Take the faulty item and the receipt back to the store as soon as possible. If you paid in cash, then the refund should also be in cash. If you paid by credit card or EFTPOS, your account should be credited,” says Ms Just.

“Alternatively, you may choose to swap the faulty product for one that’s working or have it repaired – it’s your decision. Make sure you’re not pressured into waiting for a repair if you just want your money back.”

CHOICE says it’s important to remember that, in some circumstances, retailers are not obliged to offer a refund.

“If you simply change your mind or if you don’t like the colour or fit, the store isn’t compelled to give you a refund. However, some stores have generous refund or exchange policies and they may give you a credit note or offer an exchange as a gesture of good will. It pays to ask about returns and refund policies when you purchase the item,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE says another instance where a store is not obliged to offer a refund or exchange is when the item is labelled ‘Seconds’ or is discounted due to  defects that were made clear at the time of purchase.

CHOICE’s tips when it comes to refunds or exchanges:

  • Check the store’s refund or exchange policy when you buy the item.
  • Keep your receipt or some proof of purchase, such as a credit card statement. Take the product back to the store as soon as possible.
  • You are entitled to a refund or exchange if the item is faulty, does not match the description or is not fit for purpose, even if the item was on sale.
  • If you think you are entitled to a refund but the retailer refuses to give you one, contact the Office of Fair Trading in your state or territory.
  • Visit for more information about your rights with refunds and exchanges.

January 1st 2012 is a milestone for consumers, as it marks the first anniversary of the Australian Consumer Law. The law combined 20 different state and federal laws into a single piece of legislation to offer uniform consumer protection across the country.

¹52% of people don’t know their rights; page 14, Australian Consumer Law Survey, 2011.

Media contact: Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

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