Consumer Rights: Can you get a refund if you change your mind?

Someone asked me recently what their rights were about returning an item they’d purchased because they had changed their mind about it. Like most things, legal rights and obligations all depend on the circumstances.

The Consumer Guarantees Act governs the statutory right of return for faulty or defective goods for up to 12 months from purchase. So if you have your proof of purchase and the goods are faulty or defective, you can approach the retailer to discuss repair, replacement or a refund. Note it is the retailer who decides which of the three avenues they will choose – ie there is not an automatic right of refund in the first instance. Note, too, that the Consumer Guarantees Act does not apply to goods used for commercial purposes.

But return of goods and a refund does not apply when you have changed your mind. In short, there is NO legal obligation on retailers to accept your returned goods and give you a refund just because you have changed your mind.

That said, there are a number of retailers who DO offer a change of mind return within a certain number of days after purchase, with some offering a refund and others offering a credit for you to buy other items from their store. For example, I bought a new resin all-in-one printer recently and the good folks at Hewlett Packard stated on their packaging that if I don’t love the product, I can return it within 30 days from purchase. Given resin is the latest and greatest in printing, that change of mind warranty was an incentive for me to take the plunge and buy it to try it. As it happens, I do love it!

I’d suggest that next time you buy something you check out the retailer’s and/or manufacturer’s change of mind and return policy. This is often displayed on the shop window, counter, or on the packaging like my printer. If you aren’t sure discuss it with the sales person before you commit to buying.

by Roslyn Morshead, of Rotorua’s Morshead Law             ros@morsheadlaw.co.nz