Ask LH: Am I Entitled To Exchange A Bikini I Bought Online?

Ask LH: Am I Entitled To Exchange A Bikini I Bought Online?

Hi Lifehacker, I recently bought a discounted bikini online and I want to exchange it for a smaller size, but the company’s policy states that sale items cannot be exchanged or refunded. I didn’t think simply swapping it over for a different size would be such a big deal, and just want to know my rights before I reply to them as I’m so frustrated! Thanks, Upstream

Bikini picture from Shutterstock

Dear Upstream,

We’re afraid there’s not a whole lot you can do in this situation. While Australia’s consumer protection laws are pretty robust, they don’t give you carte blanche to change your mind about purchased goods (which is what picking the wrong size amounts to).

To be legally entitled to an exchange or refund, a product needs to be either defective or unfit for the purpose it was designed for. Unless the bikini was specifically advertised as “one size fits all”, it hasn’t broken any consumer promises.

In fact. swimsuit manufacturers have been known to get away with quite a lot: earlier in the year, a range of Kmart swimwear was found to essentially disintegrate when exposed to suntan lotion or heated pools. They also became completely see-through when wet. Despite these serious flaws, Kmart technically didn’t break any rules as these caveats were all mentioned on the label. (Read the full story here.)

With that said, most brick-and-mortar retailers will agree to exchange clothes that don’t fit as a show of good faith. Unfortunately, this practice is less common when it comes to online merchants — the international shipping costs tend to outweigh any gains in customer satisfaction. Plus, a used bikini obviously can’t be refurbished/resold so it’s not a matter of simply doing a swap.

This might seem a bit stingy, but try to look at the bigger picture — if a few hundred customers accidentally choose the wrong size each year, this adds up to a pretty big loss for the company.

You’re going to have to (literally) wear this one. The lesson here is that there is still a place for traditional retail, particularly when it comes to clothes shopping. Online prices might be cheaper, but the ability to try-before-you-buy should not be underestimated.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


  • The real problem here is for the bricks and mortar retailers. Because now the OP will take the bikini back to a store that retails that item here for an exchange.

    • Which that store has no obligation to do and most of them will rightly refuse to do so in this case.

      • However, in a bricks and mortar store it’s possible a sales rep may have said “Yes – this one is your size” – then you’re covered under representation. This is not possible on-line.

  • There are also hygiene considerations with underwear, bikinis and other intimate apparel. I’m not being personal here, just making a general observation from the point of view of the retailer/other consumer. I wouldn’t like to know that I was wearing something “intimate” that someone else had previously worn.

    • Yeah, lots of places have signs up saying no returns on underwear, but for obviously defective stuff, they’d chuck it out instead of fixing it and selling it again.

      On a similar note, I’ve seen signs that say that you can’t try on the underwear, and not to ask. I’ve also heard that some places let you try underwear on over your existing clothes, but you have to ask first and make it clear what you’re doing

  • Most good online retailers offer easy exchange for items in original condition. If someone is a little cheaper and doesn’t offer that, now you know why you paid less.

  • Also not surprising if retailers don’t allow returns of underwear. Would you like to buy (as new) and wear something that someone else had already had their bits in?

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!