Many Happy Returns?

Have you ever tried to return a purchase to a store and been assessed the dreaded "restocking fee"? Unfortunately, if the store gave notice of this fee prior to the purchase, then it's perfectly valid.

California law says that the "common" consumer expectation is that a store will provide a refund, credit or exchange if a customer returns a product within 7 days with a proof of purchase. If a retailer's policy differs from the common policy, they must inform the purchaser with a prominent sign detailing the information. The signs must be posted on at least one of the following places: by entrances; at cash registers; on product tags; or on order forms.

This law applies to all companies that sell products in California at stores, by mail or online. If the common policy does not apply, then the posting must advise customers whether a cash refund, store credit or exchange will be given for the full amount of the purchase price; the time period during which the customer may return the merchandise; the types of merchandise covered by the policy; and any other conditions that govern the refund, credit, or exchange of merchandise, such as paying a restocking fee, providing original packaging, or having proof of purchase.

There are some exceptions, however. No notice is required for merchandise that isn't returnable, e.g., perishable items like food, flowers, and plants; items damaged by the customer; products sold "as is" or with an "all sales final" notice; and goods that cannot be returned due to health considerations.