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December 18, 2013

LITTLE ROCK – The days after Christmas are busy times for retailers who face long lines of shoppers bringing back unwanted gifts. No matter what gifts are under the Christmas tree this year, most consumers expect to be able to return or exchange the clothes that don’t fit or items they do not want or need.

Many retailers allow consumers to return items with ease. However, some may have refund and exchange policies that are more restrictive, or they may require shoppers to pay fees in order to return an item.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to encourage consumers to be aware of retail refund and exchange policies whether they are giving or receiving this holiday season.

“Return policies vary among retailers, so consumers should not expect to be able to return any item they choose for a full refund,” McDaniel said. “Not every store has a hassle-free refund and exchange policy. For instance, stores may not accept returns at all for a clearance item, or online retailers may require a consumer to pay a fee to ship an item back.”

It is a common misconception that retailers are required by law to accept returns for a full refund or credit. Stores are not legally required to accept at-will returns. Even if the product is defective, on some occasions the retailer may first require the consumer to contact the manufacturer of the product to see if repairs can be made. In that circumstance, recipients of a gift may be required to pay for shipping the product back to the manufacturer.

Most retailers offer refunds or exchanges if an item is returned promptly with a receipt, although policies differ from store to store.

McDaniel recommended that holiday shoppers ask retailers for gift receipts. Those receipts can be included in a gift in order to make the return process easier for recipients. Likewise, recipients of gift cards should always be presented with a receipt in the event the gift card is lost or stolen.

Some retailers may have an “all sales are final” policy, especially for discounted items or for those that would be difficult to resell. Others may charge fees of anywhere between 10 and 25 percent of the purchase price for certain products not returned in the condition in which they were purchased, such as big-ticket items like computers and televisions.

Restocking fees may be assessed for items that cannot be resold as new once a box has been opened. This could include TVs, DVDs, CDs, software or gaming consoles.

Online retailers may require any returns to be shipped back, with the consumer bearing the shipping costs. McDaniel said online buyers should read the website’s return policies and also make sure the gift recipient is aware of those policies.

For more information about refunds and exchanges or other issues related to holiday shopping, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website,, or call the Consumer Protection Hotline, (800) 482-8982.