Attorney general issues preemptive warning for gift buyers

No law entitles you to receive a refund, says AG

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning consumers now to make certain they know the return policy before buying a gift they may not be able to return after Christmas.

Here is the full press release:

To make gift returns and exchanges simple and less frustrating, it starts when buying the present.

“An unknown and complicated return policy can spoil some of the holiday fun and hurt your pocketbook,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans should learn the return policy prior to attempting the return. Some retailers allow shoppers to make returns for any reason, which can lead consumers to wrongly believe they are entitled, by law, to a full refund or credit.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for gift recipients needing to make a return or exchange this holiday season:

  • Ask the giver about the store’s return or exchange policy.
  • Keep all gift receipts.
  • If considering returning, do not open the box or remove the tags.
  • Some online retailers allow purchases to be returned in store, while others require the item to be shipped back. Check with the company ahead of time.

As a gesture of goodwill, most companies offer in-store exchanges if the customer has the receipt and the item is promptly returned. However, others have an “all sales are final” policy for deeply discounted or clearance items and do not allow returns or exchanges. Some retailers only accept returns in exchange for store credit or gift cards, not cash. Return policies not only differ from store to store but can also differ for items purchased in store and items bought online or by mail-order.

Some retailers that allow returns may charge restocking fees for certain products. Consumers can sometimes pay a fee of 10 to 25 percent of the price of the item if the package is not in the condition in which it was purchased. Meanwhile, items like computer software, CDs, DVDs and Blue-Ray discs are not generally returnable after the seal has been broken.

Retailers are not required to accept at-will returns, and even in the case of a defective product, consumers may be required to contact the manufacturer. Sometimes retailers will require consumers to deal with the product manufacturer directly, rather than simply returning the item to the place of purchase.

The National Retail Federation estimates holiday spending to increase at least 3.8 percent to $728 billion this year.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.


The FTC also has a list of tips for holiday gift returns:

  • Check on return and exchange policies. You can usually find them on the back of sales/gift receipts, at the store, and on the seller’s website. Be aware: merchants often have different refund and return policies for sale items, especially clearance merchandise. For items purchased online, check to see if the seller has a storefront that lets you make in-person returns and exchanges.
  • Bring your ID: Even if you have a receipt, some stores require a driver’s license or other government-issued ID.
  • Take your receipts. Having the original receipt or a gift receipt usually makes things easier, and improves your chances of getting a full refund or exchange. Without a receipt, you’ll probably only get a store credit for the lowest recent sale price.
  • Ask about fees: Some merchants charge a restocking fee — often 15 percent or more of the purchase price — for returns of electronics and big-ticket items.
  • Keep items in their original packaging. Products like computer software and DVDs generally aren’t returnable once their packaging has been opened, unless they’re defective.
  • Digital gifts. Refund and exchange policies for e-books, downloadable games, software, apps, and digital music and video services vary by seller. For example, some will exchange an e-book for a gift card, as long as you haven’t downloaded the book. Others require the purchaser to request refunds for e-books and music subscriptions. Most sellers generally don’t allow returns for downloadable games, software or apps.
  • Ask to speak with a manager. If you have trouble returning or exchanging a gift, ask to speak with a manager or visit customer service.



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