By Sarah Robinson / Candidate Attorney / Mooney Ford Attorneys
With Christmas just around the corner, it’s crucial to understand the rights and options available to suppliers. A rising trend during the holiday season is the purchase of Christmas decorations, customers making use thereof, and then subsequently attempting to return these items after Christmas. So, how can suppliers protect themselves in such situations? Would implementing a strict no-returns policy for all Christmas merchandise conflict with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)?
Under the CPA, consumers are not granted an automatic right to return items for reasons such as a change of heart or personal preference. While certain retailers may accommodate such returns, consumers are not legally entitled to this. In legal terms, simply changing one’s mind is not a valid reason for returning a product. The CPA allows consumers to return goods in specific circumstances only, including:
- Unsafe or defective goods, which can be returned for repair, replacement, or a refund within six months of delivery.
- Goods delivered as a result of a direct marketing transaction, where the consumer can cancel the agreement without any reason or penalty during the cooling-off period.
- Goods that the consumer had no opportunity to inspect before delivery, and they subsequently reject the delivery.
- Goods deemed unsuitable for their intended purpose, as communicated to the supplier during the transaction, can also be returned at the supplier’s expense within ten business days of delivery.
For situations not covered above, where a consumer returns an item to the supplier, the return process is governed by the supplier’s own return policy. These are often referred to as “goodwill” returns, as there is no legal obligation for the supplier to accept these returns. It is advisable for suppliers to prominently display their return policy in clear and understandable language to prevent any misunderstandings on the consumer’s part.
To prevent customers from taking advantage of the return policy to enjoy a fully decorated festive season at the supplier’s expense, it’s recommended to explicitly state a “no returns” policy for Christmas decorations. A suggested returns policy, as outlined by the office of the consumer commissioner, can be displayed as follows: “Please choose carefully. We do not normally give refunds if you simply change your mind or make the wrong decision. You could choose between a repair, exchange or your money back where goods are faulty, wrongly described, different from the sample shown to you or do not perform as intended. Please retain your receipt as proof of purchase.”