/ 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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tom says:
10 April 2018

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

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

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!].

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

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.

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

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.

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?

Anne says:
25 August 2011

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

Tom says:
10 April 2018

Unless the company provides a refund policy, you are not entitled to anything (says this in above article). The exception to this is buying online where you have 14 days to state you want a refund and then 14 days to get the item to them.

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?

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….

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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

annoyed says:
4 October 2012

that was threatened by the way

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.

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.

Tom says:
10 April 2018

I always found when you go in hot headed you get less from the staff, the policies the companies set out are in their favour. So best to go in and oblige and be friendly then they will go out of their way for you. Most places can take the details but not save them so just request this.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?