Refunds and Exchanges Podcast Transcript


Welcome to the Informed Consumer, providing the latest tips and tools to assist consumers in making informed decisions, from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.

Today’s topic: Refunds and Exchanges.

Virginia law requires that a retail merchant disclose all conditions, charges, or fees relating to the return of goods for refund, exchange or credit. A merchant’s failure to disclose its return policy can be a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA).

Here is a Refunds and Exchanges Checklist

  • Know the seller’s return policy and timeline.
  • Return policies vary, so confirm before purchasing. Common return policies include cash-back, a credit card refund, a corporate refund check, or store credit. 
  • Check if there are restocking fees for returned items.
  • Save your receipt along with any other documentation regarding the purchase. Your receipt serves as proof of purchase. 

The VCPA Requires Customer Notice in Most Circumstances

  • As a general rule, a merchant must notify its customers about its return policy by a sign attached to the goods or placed in a conspicuous public area of the merchant’s premises.  The sign must be readily noticeable and readable by the customer.
  • Merchants that do not permit refunds, exchanges, or store credits must post that policy on a sign in a conspicuous area.
  • A refund policy printed on a store receipt does not meet the requirements of the law. A receipt is received after payment is rendered and does not satisfy the VCPA’s requirement that merchants provide notice before purchase.   

The VCPA Includes Some Exceptions

  • A merchant is exempt from the VCPA posting requirement if it provides a cash refund or credit-card refund within 20 days or more of purchase, when the customer returns defective, unused, or undamaged merchandise and can present proof of purchase.
  • The VCPA posting requirement does not apply to purchases involving sale merchandise that is obviously distressed, out of date, post-season, or otherwise reduced for clearance. It also does not apply to special order purchases.   
  • The posting of refund policies does not apply to a transaction for the sale or lease of motor vehicles.

Thanks for listening to the Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic or if you feel that you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.


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