Online retailers’ return policies are a mixed bag

Online shopping: The point of no return

Online retailers’ return policies can be sadly lacking.


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Before you make the final click on your next online purchase, pause for a moment to consider the site’s return policy. Many online retailers don’t offer the same warranty and return policies as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. For example, Kitchen Stuff Plus’s return policy for online purchases—whether the item is defective or you simply don’t like it—is 30 days from the date you receive the product. But for items bought in its walk-in stores, return times are more generous.

A growing number of Canadian online retailers offer no returns whatsoever, meaning new products are basically sold “as is.” This type of practice is largely without legal consequence, due to hazy federal and provincial legislation that is highly ineffective at protecting consumers, says Fiona Dunbar of the Better Business Bureau. “As a result, it’s crucial for consumers to review each retailer’s policy regarding refunds, exchanges and deposits prior to making a purchase,” she advises.

To get around any limitations, buy with credit. The purchase assurance feature on many credit cards provides coverage for most items if they are damaged—or even stolen—within 90 days of the purchase date.