/ Shopping

Ask Which? – Why do I have to give my details for a refund?

Till and card reader

Sylvia asks: I often find that when I return an item to a shop for a refund I’m asked to fill in a form for the shop to keep. It asks for my printed name, my signature, my full address and sometimes my phone number.

They say it’s to prove that the cashier did not take the money from the till. Clearly this is nonsense as a cashier wishing to steal from a till could make up details and fill in a form. Usually there is a manager with them anyway, so they have a witness.

I oblige with only an illegible squiggle and tell them they can’t have any more information as it breaks the Data Protection Act – it usually shuts them up!

But I find this request for so much information worrying and totally unnecessary. If shops have a problem with staff stealing from their tills they need to sort out their staff – not put customers’ information at risk. Or do they sell the details? Why do they take this information?

Joanne Lezemore, senior solicitor for Which? Legal Service, responds:

I appreciate your concern and confirm that companies are not obliged to offer refunds by law and if they do so, it is due either as a gesture of goodwill, or because it has a returns policy.

Where a returns policy is in place, the retailer can set it on whatever grounds it feels fit. However, unless the policy specifically states that you will be obliged to give such information, then it cannot force you to. In fact, I have never seen a returns policy that clearly states upon return that personal details will be taken – normally it will simply state a refund will be given upon production of a receipt. Therefore, you can refuse to offer that information.

You’re right to mention the Data Protection Act (DPA). Under this act, you have a right to know what information companies hold about you and to ask an organisation not to hold or use information about you that causes ‘substantial unwarranted damage or distress’. See our guide on the DPA for more information, including sample letters to use when contacting companies.

Companies use this information for different purposes. It may be that the information is taken for security, or for marketing but it cannot sell that information without your specific consent.

I hope this helps you; please be aware that the guidance I have given is limited by the information I have and should not be treated as a substitute for taking full legal advice.

Are you often asked to give personal details when you get a refund? Would you prefer not to? Have you ever refused to give these details?

Comments
Member

Refund policies I have seen often conclude with a statement that all refunds are at the managers discretion which would cover a request for name and address I suspect.

Member

Had a number of refunds over the years – All shops displayed “no refunds without valid receipt” – I supplied one and had no problem in getting refund or replacement. Never been asked for any additional information other than receipt.

Frankly if they asked for more I would have given it.

Member
Uzume says:
7 August 2011

I agree, I can’t see any reason for companies needing so much information regarding a refund. Also, surely the solicitor advice only apples to refunds if a customer changes their mind. I still get asked for a lot of information if i return a faulty item and it is a legal obligation for the company to issue a refund unless I am mistaken?

Often, people are asked for their information in front of other customers which I think is very bad and I have been told that without the information the refund can’t be processed on the system. I’m not sure if that is true or a ploy to deter people from withholding their personal details.

Member

I would agree with this post, faulty goods returned (within a timescale) with proof of purchase, legally entitles a customer to a refund, if they so wish.

I remember years ago, the old Tandy stores wouldn’t put a sale through their till unless they had a postcode and house number that was “for the receipt” but lead to catalogues being sent out to address’ given.

Member
Tom says:
10 April 2018

Where I work it’s not a ploy, you can’t actually process a refund without some info. :/

Member

My local Morrisons insists that anyone who is overcharged at the till queus up at the tobacco/lottery counter and signs for any refund – even 16p in one case! This leads me to believe that they have a policy of increasing profits by making it inconvenient and intrusive for customers to claim what is due to them.

A manager has told me that anyone shopping at the store has to comply with their rules but refuses to say how those rules are made known to customers to comply with the Unfair Terms Regulations.

Perhaps Morrisons would like to comment

Member

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some stores are vulnerable to customers unfairly taking advantage of their liberal refund policy and wish to keep a record so that any serial abusers of the scheme can be identified. The highest odd house number in my road is number nine so when it’s convenient I live at number 11 [same postcode!].

Member

Any serial abuser is going to give false information, as you do. Therefore this policy is not going to prevent this type of fraud.