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Beware return policy traps, consumer protectors warn

The Miami-Dade County Consumer Services Department (CSD) is warning consumers to be careful, know their rights, and shop wisely during the upcoming holiday season, generally the busiest of the year.

Shoppers should learn about each store’s return policy for goods.

Consumer Advocate Leonard Elias advises consumers to heed the following tips regarding returns, refunds and exchanges:

Return policies - Check a store’s return policy before making a purchase. The law does not automatically require businesses to accept merchandise returns. Each store has the right to determine its own return policy. This can be a policy of “no returns, exchanges or refunds”.

• Posting requirements - By law, retailers that have a return or exchange policy must have it posted at the point of sale so that the customer knows the policy before making the purchase, not after the sale. “Printing the policy on the receipt isn’t good enough,” Elias adds.

• If no sign is posted - Where there is no sign describing the return policy, consumers have the right to return the merchandise within seven days with proof of purchase, as long as it has not been used, is not perishable, was not custom made and is in the original packaging.

• Return policies on misrepresented or defective goods - There are cases where the customer can return the merchandise, regardless of the store’s return policy. Among these are situations where the sales person misrepresented the merchandise or it was defective.

 • Restocking fees - Stores can charge a restocking fee on returned merchandise, but it must be made clear before the consumer buys the product. But, Elias emphasizes that the restocking fees should not be assessed when the product is defective or has been misrepresented. To report a refund or exchange problem, consumers should call the CSD Consumer Mediation Center at 305-375- 3677 and visit the CSD website at www.miamidade.gov/csd/ where complaints can be filed online.