/ 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

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.

Member
Anne says:
8 August 2011

Having worked in retail I’ll say it’s a deterrant to timewasters and fraudsters – you get a lot of chancers and it discourages them.

Member

If they are fraudsters then surely they will give a fraudulent information when requested for a post code and address.

Member
Jacqueline Pye says:
8 August 2011

Not relating to refunds, but buy the tiniest thing from a shop such as Comet and they try to get your address and phone number. I usually refuse if I’m paying cash and also with credit card as they don’t need it. Sometimes the salesperson gets desperate and says they are told to. Difficult situation but invasion of privacy I feel.

Member
Revell says:
25 August 2011

I have recently returned something to a shop and found that they wouldnt refund but instead offered a credit note as this was company policy, I would have preferred a full refund and don’t see why I should have to accept a credit note. I have received credit notes in the past and not bought anything before the expiry date so have lost my money – Is this right that stores can do this, or can I insist on taking a refund if I am returning goods, providing a receipt and returning within timescales set by the company?

Member
Anne says:
25 August 2011

No, you can’t insist unless the item is faulty. Otherwise, you will have to take the credit note.

Member

On a related issue

I recently hired equipment from a national company using a debit card. The assistant assured me that some visible damage was not significant but this proved to be incorrect and a wheel came off within minutes. A refund was made on the card.

The payment was withdrawn immediately but the refund is taking some time to reach the account.

Should banks be required to process card refunds at the same speed as payments?

Member
Pete says:
10 March 2012

I gave my details to Maplin when I exchanged an item only to start receiving mail offers from them I am not happy that they used my details for this….

Member

If they insist I give them a made up street address and postcode (that works), a favourite is addresses of where TV companies 😀

Member

Why lie? You have done nothing wrong! Just refuse to tell them your details..its your personal info –
after all, I presume you didn’t demand to know where they live when you bought the item!

Member
Annie says:
25 May 2012

Re shops asking for your name, address and phone number: give a false one. I quite happily do this if I have paid cash, if you have used a card it gets paid back in. They don’t need your phone number but an unreadable signature is fair enough. Anyone remember having to sign the back of cheques, when using a debit card as a guarantee, and write your address? I occasionally wrote Buckingham Palace and was never questioned.

My bank started almost insisting on having my mobile number, which I keep for family and close friends only. I made one up. Life is too short to argue with poor frazzled shop employees about the Data Protection Act. They don’t care, they are only following orders. Just smile and give them your mother in law’s number.

I was in Laura Ashley once when a customer opened a credit account. It was done quite openly on the counter, all the questions asked within earshot of most of the customers, including the phone call to head office to clear the credit rating. Now, that was just plain wrong.

Member
John says:
15 August 2012

I was asked for a name and address one a £1 refund – which I gladly gave.

Not mine of course – just a made up one.

Member
annoyed says:
4 October 2012

i just got threated with being banned today from a store for not giving a phone number on a refund slip yesterday, not sure how many people who dont have numbers have already been banned, i suspect however the answer to be none. They say they need it so I can be called to check i had the refund and not a member of staff on the rob. I dont want or need some random person who i dont know phoning me up and asking me about my money. The refund was because the shop assistant put through the wrong product.

Member
joan says:
16 October 2014

today i return a cushion . was ask for my telphone number i refused.
some shops ask you for your email even when you paid cash again i refuse.
THEY ASK FOR THIS IMFORMATION
ADDRESS OR TELEPHONE NUMBER SO THEY CAN SELL YOUR DETAIL AND IMFORMATION ON

Member
annoyed says:
4 October 2012

that was threatened by the way

Member
Shetal says:
29 April 2013

Recently purchased and returned Paint at B&Q. Paid for using my credit card all within few hours of one day.. Upon return, they wanted my post code and door number. When asked, the counter girl didnt know – eventually a manager showed up and explained that it was requried for fraude detection. At which point I asked, why am I not asked this question at the time of sale? Obviously that is the time to ask such a question. I then looked at their terms and condition of sale on the back of the receipt and returnes policy – there was no mention of requring post code as a condition of return/ refund. However did state that they may ask for proof of ID and they have the right to refuse refund. I offered to show him my photo driving licence but made it clear he’s not make notes or copy it. He then said no post code no refund. Is there anything / law anyone is aware of to make a formal complaint to B&Q in this reagrds. Personally – I think its rather unfair that they can refuse refund on the basis of me not providing a post code and door number. It is not in thier terms and condition / return policy or customer being made aware of before purchase. Thank you.

Member

I am familiar with the procedure used by B&Q and I am happy to oblige. If I have damaged the goods or not returned everything, then it’s reasonable that they should be able to contact me. The company does not have an obligation to give a refund for unwanted goods, so I’m prepared to help them.

Member
Shetal says:
29 April 2013

Thanks wavechan for your quick posting. Though I want to know under which law can they demand this information and failure to do would result in not getting a refund in full. Surley if they wish to avoid fraude then prevention is better then detection. By making the consumer aware prior to making the purchase that if they wish to make a return / refund then it will be mandatory to provide thier home details in order to qualify for refund. If the consumer knows of this requriement prior to making the purchase then the fraude can be prevented from occuring in the first place. Btw – the goods being returned were undamaged and all the items on the receipt were being returned.

Member

I am interested in this too. I was concerned about providing my contact details when returning a faulty item to B&Q, but have found that other companies do the same

You may know that your goods are undamaged, but I guess that B&Q receives returned goods with parts missing or broken.

I certainly agree that the customer should be aware of the company’s procedures before purchasing goods, but it is probably acceptable to put this on a website nowadays.

Member
Shop says:
24 July 2013

Just shows people’s lack of trust nowadays. If you are that paranoid that you think a shop will do anything with your address. Then go live in a cave and break all contact with other people.

Member
Cait says:
8 November 2017

1) Lots of shops DO use your data.
2) Where is the data stored and how do we know it’s safe? I doubt retail stores know how to protect against hackers, considering some data storage centres (where it is their primary focus to protect data) have difficulty doing this.
If you are NOT concerned (/paranoid) that a retail store wants your data, you are living in a dream world where ignorance rules.

Member
Phil C says:
2 September 2013

I once had to exchange a small bulb at a B&Q store in Newbury Park, East London because I’d accidentally bought a fridge bulb instead of an oven bulb.

Although B&Q agreed to exchange, they insisted I provide my full contact details even though:

a) I was promptly requesting the exchange within 24 hours of purchase;
b) I was paying more for the bulb I wanted than the one I returned; and
c) neither item cost more than a few pounds.

I simply provided false information as I do not see how my post code was of any relevance what so ever.

Member
leigh says:
28 June 2014

As a shop assistant my full name is being printed on the customers receipts without my consent. Can I demand that this information be removed.

Member
Chris says:
3 September 2014

No, why should it be? You see the customers name on cards etc. What makes you so special that means the customer shouldn’t know your identity?

Member
Maisie Parrish says:
8 August 2014

I alwys seen to be asked for my full address details when returning an item. Today I returned an item that did not fit to Debenhams, it was under £10 in the sale. The assistant told me she needed all my address details to prevent fraud. I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. Usually you start getting junk mail shortly afterwards. Matalan always want these details, and I am pleased to know that I am not obliged to give them

Member
Private says:
21 November 2014

Anyone else noticed that you have to give your email address to even comment on this subject?

Everyone is obsessed with getting your information. If a shop asks me for information when I am buying something (pcworld, etc), then I walk out. They want my money more than I need their product. But seeing as they prepared to lose a sale if they can’t get your details, then maybe it is power they want more.

Member
Sandra says:
17 February 2015

Hi! I would like to know if it’s legal for a retailer to ask for the costumer personal info. to add them on the company data! The reason is that recently my company has introduce the database to our system , and I’m a sales assistant and my manager has been into a hell of a pressure and has been a threatened of losing his job and so the staff members if we don’t take emails and postcodes of the costumers ! As a costumer point of view I find that very personal as I don’t give my details away for caution ! And I feel bad that I have to push for emails and postcodes otherwise I lose my job. From sale assistant I have become and marketing assistant because nowadays it doesn’t matter if a store does target , if it didn’t took that many emails is the same as nothing !

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Member
Elise says:
31 March 2015

My case was infuriating! I bought 2 packs of napkins at £1 each. Their cash register made a mistake and charged me £5, so when I recrived the wrong change, they told me ‘I need your name and address for a refund’. I have done nothing wrong, I didn’t even have a change of mind! I was simply charged the wrong price. It was completely their fault and yet they harassed me for name and address to ‘cover their staff’

Anyone with similar experience?

Member

I wonder what they would have said if you had said you would take them to court for overcharging you. 🙂

I once had a sales assistant at a well known high street shop insisting that I must use one of their carrier bags because that was company policy. I wanted to use my own bag and pointed out that the receipt was adequate evidence that I had purchased the goods. I won that argument and the sales assistant had to endure a lecture on environmental responsibility.

Member
Elise says:
31 March 2015

Well done you for saving the environment! That was all nonsense about ‘you have to use the company’s carrier bag’! How could someone insist on that! They are just being unhelpful.

In my case, I agree that I could have taken them to court for overcharging me! I had the goods in my hand with the price tags and the receipt. I only realised that they have overcharged me when they gave me the wrong change.The sales person was quite young, she looked really apologetic and said ‘by law we need to ask for your name and address’, when I refused, the more senior person said ‘you can just scribble…’ Looked like she didn’t care about the name and address at all, but was too afraid to break the company’s policy.

I understand that the sales assistants don’t want to get into trouble, so they do what they were told, but to tell me that ‘name and adddess are required by law’ was a complete joke! They shouldn’t have said that, if I did take them to court, they would be in so much trouble!

Member

If a sales assistant makes a mistake then surely they could call a supervisor for advice. It must have been obvious that you had a good case for not supplying your name and address in the circumstances.

Of course I would not have taken anyone to court over a couple of pounds but I might say that to help make a sales assistant aware that what they have done is wrong.

Anyway, Elise, I’m sure it won’t happen again.

Member
Nina says:
15 May 2015

Me and my partner have bought some building materials from Jewsons to follow the architects recommendations but as it turned out there was a cheaper and better way to do our flooring. Went back to Jewsons to return the goods in their original packaging and with receipt worth of over £2000 and guess what…no refund as we were told refund it’s up to manager and if they think they can’t sell it quick enough they won’t refund it. How about putting that info by the till or at least mentioning before selling it. How very convenient for them.

Member

I am afraid that is the general rule in retail. Shops are not obliged to give refunds for returned goods unless there is something wrong with them. Some stores make a policy of giving refunds for purchases even if you have changed your mind and they usually declare that prominently; stores that don’t do refunds usually keep quiet about it. It must give them a lot of grief as customers argue their case with their staff; if I were in their position I would give fair warning of a ‘no refunds’ policy. With large and expensive products and slow-moving lines I can understand the policy because as soon as an item is sold the stock is replenished and if the sold goods are later returned it can cause operating and accounting problems; I am surprised there isn’t a compromise position available in such circumstances however. I wonder what your architect thinks about the difficulty he or she has placed you in, even if unintentionally.

Member

Very glad to have found this discussion – its been annoying me for years!
For a start, and only dealing with the scenario where the goods are ‘not fit for purpose’, making up false details is letting them make you lie! Why lie!? You have done nothing wrong! You are not the awkward customer, they are the awkward retailer. As many posts have picked up on, saying it is to prevent staff stealing is rubbish because they would make up false details and as they don’t (dare!) ask for ID then it makes it a nonsensical system. Tell them it contravenes the sale of goods act and your receipt is your contract. Try demanding to know their personal details next time you buy something! Lets stop being complacent, don’t make up false details, tell them they have no right to have your personal info – end of story.

Member
Mary says:
13 July 2015

I am always asked upon returning an item that it is the company policy to ask for personal details. When I have asked why that is I have been told ‘that is the ways way returns procedure works’.

I bought some items from Currys some years ago and they were not suitable so upon asking for a refund in the store I was asked for my personal details. I refused to give these so the young gentleman serving me requested his manager. When the manager arrived he told the young gentleman “Just give the name and details of this store and that will suffice”. Sorted!

Member

Only today I took an Item back to Peacocks for a refund to be asked my name,address.postcard I told them why do you need this info answer you can’t get a refund on Item without all my details,so I told them no your not having this info only to be told your the only one who has kicked up a fuss I said excuse me but I’m making a statement in the end they gave in.

Member
Kelly says:
2 October 2017

In the store I work at, exchanges and/or return of faulty goods can be done without a receipt. But a full refund requires the customer’s name, address and signature. As a Sales Assistant, I never really questioned this; I just did it whenever a refund came about because it’s my job. After being there for over a year, I assumed the reason why we need these details is so that Head Office can confirm that no unauthorised removal of cash from the till had taken place. I don’t know if there’s any truth to that.
Most customers are happy to give these details if they want their money back, and I understand why others wouldn’t. After all, I’ve no idea what Head Office is doing with their information so why should they feel comfortable with me passing it on to them?
I only ask, not to give the staff who are serving you abuse over this. If you wish to, we can give you the number to Customer Helpline or Head Office to get answers in your own time. Don’t shoot the messenger! 🙂
I’m a part-time Sales Assistant at a basic retail store. I have no control over company policy and I physically cannot process a refund without putting the customer’s details onto the till. The buttons on the screen will not show up without the details, making it literally impossible for me to proceed. Sometimes I get grief over this from some people as I try to explain to them I literally can’t do anything even if I wanted to.
If they don’t want to give over their personal details, that is perfectly acceptable and within reason. But don’t expect a refund. You’ll have to do an exchange instead.
🙂