Is the store refusing to give you a refund? Here's what to do and how to get your money back.
Whether you're legally entitled to a refund or not, here are the steps you should take in order to try and get your money back.
Are you entitled to a refund?
First things first, you need to work out whether you're actually entitled to a refund. In Australia, you're only entitled to a refund (or repair or replacement) if the item you bought is faulty. You can use this handy checklist to work out whether or not you are legally entitled to refund.
You're entitled to a refund, replacement or repair if:
- The item is faulty or damaged
- You were sent the wrong item
- You were sent the wrong size
- The item doesn't work as like a reasonable person would expect it to work (eg, an LED makeup mirror that doesn't light up)
- The item is significantly different to the product images and description
You are NOT entitled to a refund because:
- You changed your mind
- You found the product for a cheaper price at another store
- You don't like the item
- You chose the wrong size
- The product has a fault that you knew about before you bought it
If you find that you are not legally entitled to a refund, then it'll be a lot harder to get your money back. But if you are entitled to a refund, it should be a lot easier.
What to do if you are entitled to a refund
If you've checked and you are definitely entitled to a refund, but the store that you purchased from is refusing to give you one, then there are a few things that you need to consider.
Do you have adequate proof of purchase?
If you've got your receipt, getting a refund is easier.
If you don't have a receipt or acceptable proof of purchase as defined by the ACCC, you could have trouble getting your money back. You need a proof of purchase in order to guarantee that you can get a refund. According to the ACCC, "to use your rights to a repair, replacement or refund you will need to keep the receipt or other type of proof of purchase".
If you've lost your receipt, try checking your bank statement. Many retailers will accept a bank statement as proof of purchase. Also, some stores have store-specific barcodes, which can act as a proof of purchase. If you were given a reference number at any point when purchasing or ordering your item, this can act as proof of purchase too.
If you have no acceptable proof of purchase, legally, you are not entitled to a refund.
Did the business offer you a repair or replacement?
Consumer guarantees stipulate that you're entitled to a repair, replacement or refund if an item you bought is deemed to be faulty. It is up to the retailer to decide which option they want to go with.
If a business has offered to reasonably repair or replace the product, then it's difficult to compel a refund. You might have to be satisfied with the replacement or repair.
I've got my receipt and I haven't been offered a repair or replacement
In this situation, it's time to take action. The first step should always be to call, visit or email the business to explain the situation. If you choose to call or visit the store, write down the names of the people you spoke to and always follow up the conversation with an email that details everything discussed, including the time of the call and who you spoke with.
Here's a guideline of key points to raise:
- You would like a refund
- A product you purchased is faulty or incorrect (you will need to explain how and why)
- Explain that according to the ACCC, if a product fails to meet a "consumer guarantee", you have the right to ask for a repair, replacement or refund under the Australian Consumer Law
- Again explain how the product doesn't meet the "consumer guarantee" (eg, it's broken, it doesn't turn on or it's ripped, torn or stained)
At this point, a business that is reasonable and that reasonably complies with Australian Consumer Law should have no problem offering you a refund, although some retailers may choose to offer a replacement or a repair instead.
The business is refusing to give you a refund
So what do you do if you're legally entitled to a refund and you've spoken to the retailer but they're refusing to comply?
Write a letter of complaint
The ACCC advises sending a letter of complaint. It's a good idea to write a letter that directly quotes the relevant passages from the ACCC's consumer guarantees information page. Passages such as:
"If a product or service you buy fails to meet a consumer guarantee, you have the right to ask for a repair, replacement or refund under the Australian Consumer Law."
"You can claim a remedy from the retailer if the products do not meet any one or more of the consumer guarantees, with the exception of availability of spare parts and repair facilities. The remedies you can seek from the retailer who sold you the product include a repair, replacement or refund and in some cases compensation for damages and loss."
You should stick to the facts and leave all emotion out of your writing. The ACCC also has a very informative guide on how to write a letter of complaint.
Get your state department involved
If you've tried to resolve the issue directly with the retailer and you've been unsuccessful thus far, you can get the relevant state department involved.
- Access Canberra
- NSW Fair Trading
- NT Consumer Affairs
- Office of Fair Trading Queensland
- SA Office of Consumer and Business Services
- Tasmanian Consumer Affairs & Fair Trading
- Consumer Affairs Victoria
- WA Consumer Protection - Department Of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety
Go to the department website that matches the state in which you bought the product. You can then head to the "general complaints" section and lodge a complaint online. Your state department will then contact the business and resolve the issue on your behalf.
What to do if you've changed your mind but the store policy is "no refunds"
If you are not legally entitled to a refund and you have simply changed your mind about a product, then businesses have a right to deny you a refund under Australian Consumer Law. But this doesn't mean that you can't try your best to get a refund anyway.
For some businesses, a "no refunds" policy acts as a protection to stop people from buying something, using or wearing it once and then returning it later. If you can show that the product is genuinely new and completely unused, some retailers may be slightly more inclined to bend the rules.
If you purchased in store
Head back to the store. Make sure the item is neatly folded or packed in the relevant packaging and make sure you have your receipt. Very nicely, ask to return the item. Show your receipt and explain that you haven't used the item at all.
You'll find that if the item is in perfect selling condition, the retailer will sometimes accept a return even if it has a "no returns" policy. Retailers want your repeat business and will try to keep you happy as long as your requests are reasonable.
If the business won't accept the return and refuses to refund you, then you will have to accept this answer. Make sure you read the store's returns policy in detail before you make a purchase.
If you purchased online
First, work out whether you can initiate a return without contacting customer service. Some online stores will allow you to view your order history and start the returns process without speaking with a customer service representative. Let's say the store says "no refunds on sale items" but the store also allows you to initiate your own returns. Just start the return anyway. Many stores won't track what was on sale and what wasn't. Just try it and see what happens.
If you need to contact the customer service department before you can return an item, the first step is to email or call. Contact the store and explain that you want to return an item and give a reasonable explanation as to why. Maybe you bought the wrong size? Maybe your sister gave you the same item for your birthday?
Try to acknowledge that the store would be doing you a favour by granting the return:
"I know you don't generally offer returns, but I thought I'd check to see if you would make an exception."
Retailers like to keep their customers happy, so you may find that they do make an exception. But if they don't, you will have to accept their answer.