Department store giant Myer has tightened up its returns and refund policy in a move which provides some valuable lessons for SMEs.
Myer previously had an open-ended policy for goods where customers had a change of mind but now these goods can only be returned with a receipt within 30 days of buying.
Jo Lynch, spokesperson for Myer, told SmartCompany the new returns policy began this month and continued on the “sentiment” of the retailer’s previous returns policy.
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“Myer has a very strong legacy in regards to accommodating and flexible returns for our customers, which we want to continue,” she says.
“Our policy only applies to change-of-mind returns and definitely not goods that are faulty or don’t do what they are intended to do.”
Lynch says the changes made are intended to make the policy clearer and clarify what a reasonable period of time is in which to return an item where a customer has just changed their mind.
“The Myer returns policy does not exclude or replace rights given under relevant consumer law or regulations,” she says.
Myer has also introduced a gift receipt which acts as proof that an item was purchased at Myer but does not include any pricing information and has extended the 30-day change-of-mind returns period during the Christmas period to January 31, 2013.
Sally Scott, partner at law firm Hall and Wilcox, says Myer is within its rights to introduce a 30-day receipt required return policy.
“What retailers such as Myer can’t do is represent, whether directly or indirectly, that consumers can only return goods on such conditions – 30-day time limit and receipt required – because those conditions do not apply to rights available to consumers under the Australian Consumer Law,” she says.
Scott says Myer’s written policy documents include a statement that “The Myer returns policy does not exclude or replace your rights given under relevant consumer law or regulations”. However, this sort of statement is generally not enough and most retailers are mistaken about this.
“It will not be enough if the remainder of the document highlights the conditions – such as 30-day time limit and receipt required – without making it sufficiently clear that these conditions only apply to the additional warranties and rights provided by the retailer,” she says.
“The issue is whether consumers reading the written policy would interpret these conditions as applying to all return rights. I believe there is a real risk that consumers would.”
Scott says under the Australian Consumer Law, there is no requirement of a receipt or a 30-day time limit and while retailers can require evidence of purchase, this does not necessarily need to be in the form of a receipt.
She warns retailers need to make it “blatantly clear” in their returns policies that conditions that apply to their own additional warranties and rights do not apply to all returns rights.
Myer’s stricter policy comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission continues to crack down on retailers for misleading and illegal refund and return policies.
Earlier this week the consumer watchdog announced the prosecution of some Harvey Norman franchisees in relation to their refund policy and earlier this month it launched a case against Hewlett-Packard Australia on similar grounds.