As we are now full-blown into the holiday shopping season, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about one of the most commonly asked questions about retail sales:  Are stores required to offer the return, refund, or exchange policies?

Here at Consumer Protection BC, the inquiry team gets asked this question a lot. Some people figure there is a mandatory return or refund policy for retail sales within a certain time frame. The reality? Retail stores determine their own policies around returns, refunds, and exchanges. Some stores do not allow any type of refund or exchange at all and others offer different policies depending on the items you purchase. For example, a clothing store I often visit in our building complex offers the following policies on returns:

  • Full refund on regularly priced merchandise within 30 days (with a receipt)
  • Exchange or store credit for sale items within 14 days (with a receipt)
  • No refunds or exchanges for “intimate” apparel (this would include clothing items such as undergarments or hats)

It is always best to ask about a return, refund, or exchange policies before purchasing any item. Many stores will display their return policies at the checkout counter or print them on receipts.

Return and refund policies are definitely something to keep in mind when buying gifts. Many stores offer gift receipts in case the recipient doesn’t love it as much as you thought they would. The receipt will show where the item was purchased and what the return policy is but will not show what you paid. Usually around the holiday season, stores will also extend the timeframe for refunds in order to give the recipient time to make a decision. Remember, it is your right to decide where you spend your money. If you are uncomfortable with a store’s policies regarding refunds, you don’t have to spend your money there.

The bottom line? Ask about a store’s refund policy before you buy.

Happy shopping!


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