(release from NYS CPB )
The New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) alerted consumers today to a new retail refund law that takes effect December 1, 2009. The law requires retailers to more clearly define and post refund policies, including restocking and other fees. The amendment was proposed by the CPB and was signed by Governor Paterson in August 2009.
“Inconspicuously posted refund policies left consumers in the dark when making purchases,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “These reforms remedy consumer complaints regarding refunds and will help ensure consumers have the opportunity to make more informed decisions in the marketplace.”
“The new refund law l will give consumers stronger protections when spending their hard-earned money this holiday shopping season,” said CPB Chairperson and Executive Director Mindy A. Bockstein. “The public should now look for more robust store refund polices, which will in the long-run help strengthen the marketplace for retailers and consumers.”
The amendments to the General Business Law addressed a significant loophole in the law, which was codified in 1977. The new provisions update the statute to reflect changes in the marketplace over the past three decades and are supported by the Retail Council of New York State. Restocking and other fees that have been applied by retailers are now identified in the law and must be fully disclosed.
The State law now provides for the following:
· Merchants must affirmatively post a refund policy. The new law removed the exemption which provided that merchants who do not post a refund policy are assumed to provide cash refunds for 20 days from the date of purchase, and thus were absolved from any posting requirement.
· Customers are authorized to return any item for a full refund for up to 30 days from the date of purchase should the retailer fail to post a refund policy, as long as the buyer can verify the date of purchase with a receipt or any other purchase verification tool utilized by the merchant.
· Retailers must make a written copy of the store’s refund policies available upon request and to post such availability on its refund policy signage.
· Retailers must update their refund policy signage to provide consumers with advance notice if return of any purchase is subject to fees, and the exact dollar or percentage amount of such fees. This includes disclosing restocking fees, which the law defines as “any amount charged by a seller for accepting returned merchandise and issuing a refund or credit.”
A consumer tip sheet about the changes to the law and the new protections can be found at: www.nysconsumer.gov.
“The CPB is available to assist consumers with their marketplace problems and to mediate complaints,” said Bockstein. “During this time of economic constraint, we all benefit from additional help and safeguards.”
The CPB, established in 1970 by the New York State Legislature, is the State’s top consumer watchdog and think tank. The CPB’s core mission is to protect New Yorkers by publicizing unscrupulous and questionable business practices and product recalls; conducting investigations and hearings; enforcing the “Do Not Call” law; researching issues; developing legislation; creating consumer education programs and materials; responding to individual marketplace complaints by securing voluntary agreements; and, representing the interests of consumers before the Public Service Commission and other State and federal agencies.
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To file a consumer complaint with the NYS Consumer Protection Board (CPB), call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-697-1220 or visit the CPB’s website at www.nysconsumer.gov. In addition to the online complaint form, the website is home to important consumer safety information and resource.