Ask LH: Can I Get Refunds On Christmas Gifts?

Ask LH: Can I Get Refunds On Christmas Gifts?

Hey Lifehacker, Like many people, I planned to do my Christmas shopping early, which means more time between buying the item and opening it Christmas day. According to some stores (Apple’s online store in particular), items have a 14-day return window. What happens if I buy the item on 1 December and sit it under the tree until 25 December, but then discover that it’s faulty, not the right type of item or some other circumstance that would mean I’d have to send it back? Can the store refuse to exchange the item or refund the cost? Thanks, Confused Christmas Customer

Picture: mikecogh

Dear CCC,

There are two fundamental principles to bear in mind here:

  • If goods are defective, not fit for purpose, or don’t match the description, you’re entitled to a replacement or a refund under Australian consumer law. Stores can’t impose an arbitrary time limit on this process. There’s no fixed period for how long you can seek to return defective goods (since different categories have different lifespans), but a 14-day window certainly couldn’t be imposed.
  • If you simply don’t want the gift (because you don’t like it or it’s a duplicate), a store might offer the option to return or exchange it, but it isn’t obliged to. Most large retailers will do so, but remember: it’s a courtesy, not a right, you need to ask nicely. (In this case, it’s also likely you’d have to bear the cost of returning the goods).

In the specific case of Apple, it actually has a more generous policy for Christmas purchases than at other times of the year. As its Australian store notes:

Items purchased at the Apple Online Store that are received between November 1, 2013 and December 25, 2013, may be returned through January 7, 2014.

Again, it’s worth reiterating that this restriction applies if you choose to return goods because you are “not completely satisfied”. Goods that are dead on arrival or don’t operate properly should be replaced or refunded without question.


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  • Moot point…! Pretty sure those two examples apply throughout the year anyway, regardless of whether it’s a high sales period or not….!

    • very true.. The good thing is that some stores make these processes EASIER for the staff to process. Even though the consumer may be legally refunded due to major fault, some stores just have terrible processes and it still makes it a terrible experience for the customer and staff.

  • I know a few others stores have an extended returns window through Christmas as well, such as the Sussan group’s stores.

  • True the regular rules still apply although the extended exchange is the big difference. Can’t remember the number of times customers have demanded refunds for change of mind and then trying to tell me they will report me to consumer affairs.

  • I used to work at a large department store in an average-income area.

    Apparently the first day open after Christmas is the best day to return most of your kid’s new toys for Change of Mind.

    On a relevant note… Returning gifts is all class. Just saying.
    Edit: Just remembered the ‘faulty’ bit of the question. That’s fair.

    • Change of Mind sucks for the smaller retailers.. “but Big W will refund it with no questions… I demand a refund!”

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