In Canada, businesses are not obligated to accept the return of purchased items unless they are defective. However, many businesses offer refunds or exchanges for various other reasons to help foster good customer relations.
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Refund or exchange policy
Before you buy an item or a service, learn about the seller's refund or exchange policy. Businesses are not legally obligated to accept the return of purchased items unless they are defective. Be sure you understand the terms of the return/exchange policy, if it exists. These policies are often posted near the cash register. If the return or exchange policy is not available, you can ask the seller and request it in writing (it is often printed on the back of the sales receipt).
Though some stores will allow you to bring certain goods back, refund or exchange conditions may exclude:
- personal goods such as earrings or swimsuits
- cash refunds (i.e., exchange or store credit only)
- promotions and sale items
- goods not returned within a set number of days
Be sure you know about any such exclusions before making a purchase. Also, check to see if these policies change around the holidays, as many retailers may restrict returns between Boxing Day and New Year's Day, extending their return windows in January.
Sales receipt for refunds and exchanges
When you buy an item or a service, make sure you get a receipt. Having one will help make future refunds or exchanges easier. Stores almost always need a sales receipt before accepting any refunds or exchanges.
Tips for refunds and exchanges
- Don't open the box. When returning an item outside of the original packaging, some merchants may charge you a restocking fee (often a percentage of the purchase price). Review the return policy before removing any packaging if there's a chance you may need to return an item.
- Keep your gift receipt. If receiving a gift, make sure you keep the gift receipt as merchants often cannot offer a refund without one. If you didn't get a gift receipt you may be eligible for store credit.
- For items purchased online. Note whether the merchant has walk-in store locations and allows in-person returns. That way, you can avoid repacking the item and going to the post office, as well as paying for any return shipping costs.
It's also important to check whether you've purchased an item from a third-party seller, because they may have different return policies than the retailer.
Refund or exchange complaint
Contact the seller's customer service or manager for help resolving any issues with a refund or exchange. For tips on resolving your complaint, check out The Complaint Roadmap.
If your problem with an exchange or refund persists, or if you feel the seller is not upholding their policy, contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office for advice.
Trusted consumer information
Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.