Ask LH: Are Scanned Receipts Valid When I Ask For A Refund?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve recently begun the endeavour to go paperless using a Doxie, Evernote and Google Drive. Loving it so far. My query is about the legality of scanned receipts.

Photo by Ben Osteen.

I understand that scanned receipts are accepted by the Australian Tax Office, but are they legal documents in other contexts? Is a store is able to legally refuse a scanned receipt, even if I’ve printed it out?

Thanks Scan Fan

Dear SF,

The ACCC certainly doesn’t think that a legitimate copy of a receipt is any less kosher than the original document, noting that particular case specifically as an "other type of proof of purchase" in its notes on receipts here.

There is a note further in the same link that suggests your case will always be stronger if you have more than one type of documentation to prove purchase — warranty cards and the like — but from a legal standpoint there doesn’t seem to be all that much confusion.

Presumably a store could refuse a refund from a scanned receipt if they had reasonable grounds to suspect the digital image had been tampered with, but that's a very specific kind of case. In general use, there should be no difference.

The ACCC even offers an Android or iOS app that allows you to store your receipts on your phone directly, further enhancing the validity of a scanned receipt. So scan away and clear that clutter!

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I take phone photos of all my important receipts. Kmart, BigW and Coles have accepted returned goods based on the photos without question... Nor should they.

    I have had issues exchanging a defective product at a BigW - at first they refused to accept my copied receipt, despite me pointing out that their ink fades and the paper can go black. She told me they "only accept legitimate receipts" because they have to write the the item is refunded/returned.

    In the end I got a the exchange, but that was a clear process hole on their part.

    To the OP: I scan all of my worthwhile receipts and store them in the cloud, but I do typically keep the paper receipt. I have a very, very black receipt from my PS2 that you can barely see the print on. But you never know when you'll need it for insurance or something.

    Last edited 25/07/14 2:11 pm

      They can't legally force you to take a store exchange... I've returned stuff to Woolies and they tried the same nonsense on me too, but I argued that I didn't want to exchange, I wanted to get a better one elsewhere, so they gave me the refund. Probably helps that I look a bit intimidating to people who don't know me though..! :)

        in this case I wanted an exchange. They had said item $100 cheaper than anywhere else.

      Get the ACCC app as mentioned above. It's great when questioned as you just show them the ACCC app and emphasize the ACCC name. If they have a problem you can simply say you'll refer it to the ACCC to sort out. Thankfully this is one government agency with teeth and retailers know it.

      BTW, it's also great to have to point out to retailers when they illegally display "No refunds on sale items" signs and the like. Just refer them to the relevant section in the ACCC app. You always get uneducated shop assistants who tell you something completely wrong about consumer rights. When they dispute your version just whip out the app and show them. They then just shutup and comply.

      I've had JB Hifi staff specifically tell me to scan in the receipt, as they fade, but to keep the original too.

    Bunnings encouraged me to copy a receipt for a large item because, as they correctly pointed out, the imprint on the thermo-paper does fade.

      We do that at work as well, more so when they get extended warranties. We can reprint receipts if they have a customer number as their purchases can be linked to it, but some companies won't take the reprint for warranty purposes as it isn't the original receipt.

    You can use 'yer bank statement if you need other proof of purchase too, prolly a better method in the long run anyway..!

      Don't do this. Keep the receipt. Some places require information found on the receipt to process returns.

        @jasoncrenshaw @Vxif you need other proof of purchase tooI didn't say use it as proof of purchase, just as a secondary proof if needed..!!

      I don't know if that would work. Bank statement doesn't states what items you bought, only the total price. And if you purchase multiple items in one go, that could possibly cause issues.

      However, I recently had an external hard drive start playing up, and I couldn't find my receipt anywhere. I jumped on the JB Hi-Fi website and sent them a message stating the date and amount of my purchase, which I got from my statement, and they sent me back a copy of my receipt.

        The idea is that you have your scanned receipt and bank/credit card statement as supporting evidence. A receipt for $199 on 25/07/2014 and a $199 debit on a statement on the same day is pretty clear to me.

    I have actually had stores tell me to photocopy / scan the receipt as the ink will fade - usually for larger ticket items like electronics etc. So, if stores are telling me to photocopy / scan my receipt then they must also accept that as proof of purchase.

    All receipts have a unique identifying number anyway, so the stores can always verify the authenticity of a purchase.

    As an employee for a large retailer, ill jump in here with my piece.
    We legally can refuse a scanned copy of a receipt. If that is all you have. Unfortunately there are a lot of dishonest people that fraudulently acquire refunds through countless methods. It is because of these people that stores have to have policies in place and deny or approve refunds based on these policies.
    It tends not to be something that people understand unless you work in that part of a corporation.
    If possible bring a photo of the ORIGINAL receipt and/ or Bank Statement.
    Yes we can use the identifying number on a receipt, but without an original receipt how can a company verify whether a refund has already been obtained by you or another person, or even from that organization?

    How would you like if someone stole an item from you, then went and refunded it at a store, without a reciept or with a scanned reciept they picked out of a bin or off the floor , obtaining money that was essentially yours? This is a reason that stores require original receipts in the first place. You'd actually be amazed how often stolen items are attempted to be refunded.

    Arguing about refunds and exchanges is also simply a very rude way of getting your way. Remember that the person you are speaking to are an employee of a corporation and that we have to follow a companies policies and procedures in terms of refunds. We dont refuse refunds because we feel like it contrary to belief. We do it becasue we are REQUIRED to do so. Every refund / exchange / credit is overseen by a manager and questioned, and countless times employees have been reprimanded or lost their job for not following company policy.

    You think you have it hard as a customer returning an item? Try being a staff member. We have to follow every letter to a T, and even then we are under constant observation and our refund/ exchanges monitored.

      Arguing about refunds and exchanges is also simply a very rude way of getting your way. Remember that the person you are speaking to are an employee of a corporation and that we have to follow a companies policies and procedures in terms of refunds. We dont refuse refunds because we feel like it contrary to belief. We do it becasue we are REQUIRED to do so.I've had to argue my case on several occasions in the past, because the assistant, was arguing that I wasn't entitled to my money back, but apparently they can give store credit... In those situations, arguing is the only way you will get your money back..! Short of demanding to see the manager, I'm not about to back off just because the store assistant is telling me to accept store credit or bugger off..!

      Last edited 25/07/14 4:06 pm

      You don't keep track of whats been returned based on receipt number internally ?

      A system that relies on the customer to provide proof they have not yet received a refund for an item is a pretty poor system, that would mean that you also have no audit trail when you issue a refund, although you also said that its overseen by a manager so therefore you would have an audit trail and therefore it should be easy to see that an item has already been refunded.

      Now not having a physical item you can mark to prevent any "i didn't return this item, see my receipt isn't marked in any way" disputes is a problem that is not easily remedied, even having them sign something can still be disputed "i didn't sign that, you must have forged it".

      But only accepting a highly volatile (eg fades easily) means you have to compromise somewhere, and even then its easy to misplace them.

      Last edited 25/07/14 4:27 pm

        "You don't keep track of whats been returned based on receipt number internally ?"

        That would be pretty optimistic from what I've seen of some companies' inventory systems. Also Jurai's last paragraph is particularly true "Try being a staff member. We have to follow every letter to a T, and even then we are under constant observation and our refund/ exchanges monitored." In a lot of retail situations the counter staff can't win, between customer and weasily owners.

          Most POS systems (beyond the simple cash register) should be able to track simple information like ItemID 3729 on Receipt 84920 was returned and fully refunded on 28/7/14 at 2:45pm.

          If the owners want to weasel out of their legal obligations they they should be there all day every day to handle the returns and tell their customers to sod off, not fob it off onto staff who then get chastised for doing the right thing.

            Yes POS systems should and managers should.

            Unfortunately we have a work environment in Australia where retail managers may find it easier to take advantage of staff who are easily replaced (or squeezed by a number of tricks) and unlikely to complain.

        I'd imagine that every item would then need to be individually serialised. What a nightmare for somewhere like Officeworks with 10,000 pens let alone everything else.

          No need to track the individual items, track the receipts instead. They already have individual receipt numbers.

      You store is breaking the law. You can not legally refuse to accept a copy of the receipt.

      Well your boss has been lying to you. under Australian consumer law, a photocopy of a receipt is a legal form of proof or purchase. Refuse a refund on those ground is breaking the law. i suggest you and your boss read up on the law, because you are both breaking it. And i dont care if your company policy dictates you do things a certain way. Government law supersedes your company policies mate

    I believe they have this new-fangled contraption called a computer, where you can just key in the invoice number and out comes the date of purchase, the item(s) purchased, the branch of the store and even whether any returns have been recorded against that invoice.

    Last edited 25/07/14 11:52 pm

      But that would require effort on the workers behalf

        That would require a) the store manager knowing how the system works, and b) any amount of actual workplace training.

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