Return of Merchandise

Highlights of Hawaii’s return of merchandise law from the State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection

The Office of Consumer Protection offers these guidelines to help consumers in returning or exchanging items.

Your most important review of a store’s return of merchandise policy takes place before you buy. Don’t assume that every gift you buy can be returned for a full refund. Merchants can set their own policies within the bounds of the state law. Look for the store’s policy which should be posted on a conspicuous sign at a place where you can find and read it. If there are no conspicuous signs, the law requires merchants to accept the return of goods and provide a refund. To be sure, ask a salesclerk or the manager to show you any relevant signs and to explain the policy to you.

Merchants may establish one of four return policies.

  • Refunds only
  • Refunds or merchandise credit only
  • Exchanges or merchandise credit only
  • No refunds, merchandise credits or exchanges

Be aware of the time limits for returning or exchanging items. The return of merchandise law does not apply to goods brought back to the store more than 60 days after purchase. If the store establishes a return period that is less than 60 days, it must post a specific notice of the shorter time limit.

Be aware of exclusions or special provisions for specific types of merchandise. If the merchant excludes a certain category or type of merchandise from its return policy, it must post one or more conspicuous signs identifying the type of good being excluded. For example, merchants may have distinct return policies for clearance or sale goods, or for holiday wear.

If the store issues merchandise credits, you may still be eligible for a refund. If you obtain a store merchandise credit and cannot find a substitute item within 30 days of the return, you are entitled to a cash refund UNLESS the merchant posts a conspicuous sign to notify purchasers that the merchandise credit cannot be turned into cash.

Merchandise credits must be valid for a minimum of two years.

The laws governing the return of merchandise are also applicable to the cancellation of a layaway.

Merchants may not charge or deduct restocking fees for processing a refund, merchandise credit or exchange. The only exceptions relate to certain custom orders, and a merchant may deduct charges for repacking, pickup and transportation of goods previously delivered, unpacked and set up by the merchant at the direction of the consumer, if the deduction is disclosed to the consumer before the purchase.

Save your receipts. Merchants may require proof of purchase before they accept a return. Without a receipt, some stores offer only a reduced refund (at a sale price) or may simply refuse to accept a return. A receipt will ensure that you get a full refund of your purchase.

Encourage your retailer to offer gift receipts. Several Hawaii stores are now offering “gift receipts” to be enclosed with your gift. The gift receipt does not reflect the price of the item, except in a bar-coded form or electronic form that is decipherable by the merchant. The gift receipt makes processing returns quicker and more accurate.

Be careful about buying custom or specially ordered items. Many stores exclude custom or specially ordered items from their general return policy. Merchants who do so must post conspicuous signs or otherwise notify the purchaser, with the purchaser’s written acknowledgement, of the return policy. Whenever you purchase an item that requires special processing by the merchant, such as certain upholstery, silverware, chinaware, or Hawaiian jewelry, double check the applicable return policy.

The return of merchandise law applies to purchases made or received primarily for personal, family or household purposes, and does not apply to transactions between businesses.

Most Hawaii merchants want to meet their customers’ expectations in processing a return of merchandise. If you feel that you have not been treated fairly, talk with the store’s manager. If you are unable to obtain a satisfactory resolution of your problem, or if you believe that the store has violated Hawaii’s return of merchandise law, contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 587-3222.