/ Technology

Have you ever tried to get a refund on a download?

The answer to that question is ‘maybe’ according to the results of our latest download investigation. However, download refund rights are sketchy at present, so do you want some clarity about your rights?

Maybe you’ve never paid for a download in your life? There are plenty of free smartphone apps out there. However, it’s certainly a popular way to shop for music fans – last month the British Recorded Music Association announced digital album sales had reached 21.3 million copies for the year to date.

And it’s not just about music and apps. We’re downloading software, games and ebooks too. But where do you stand if something goes wrong, or you mistakenly buy a download?

What are my download rights?

Distance Selling Regulations give you seven days from the day after you receive goods – or seven working days from the day after you sign up for services – to change your mind about an online purchase. But there’s no certainty as to whether Distance Selling Regulations even apply to downloads – are they goods, services or something else?

In the absence of any overarching download purchasing rights, you’re left with having to look at the individual policies of retailers themselves.

Our download investigation

In our investigation we looked at the refund policies and terms of sale for popular download retailers, including iTunes and Amazon. Policies tended to be very clear about your refund rights, but not in a good way. Seven out of the nine policies we looked at, with regard to ebook and music downloads, could be summarised as saying ‘downloads are non-refundable’.

However, what they actually did was another matter. We managed to get a reimbursement of some kind in almost 80% of cases where we said we’d made a purchase by mistake.

In the end it seemed clear that most retailers were using their discretion when judging whether to refund a customer’s download purchase.

‘Broken’ download rights

If a download doesn’t work properly (i.e it’s broken) we would expect customers to be refunded. And commenter Martin told us on our last download rights Conversation that Apple had met that challenge:

‘To be fair to iTunes, I downloaded a file that wouldn’t play and they were quick to refund my credit and let me try again.’

So, is there a problem or are retailers handling refund requests well by themselves?

From the results of our download refunds poll, it looks like lots of you need clarity about what their rights actually are. Around a third of voters said they’d been disappointed with a download, but didn’t do anything about it. And a further one in ten said they’d been refused a refund. We’ve reopened this poll below, so you too can have your say by voting.

There is progress being made with regards to our download rights as part of the new EU Consumer Rights Directive, but it could be up to two years before this takes effect. If lots of consumers are losing money on faulty or poor downloads then surely we need action sooner.

So, if you’ve ever had a bad experience with a download you’ve paid for, or been refused a refund, we want to hear about it.

Have you ever been disappointed with a digital download you’ve bought?

I’ve never paid for a download (33%, 139 Votes)

Yes – but I didn’t do anything about it (27%, 115 Votes)

No - I’ve only had good experiences (24%, 101 Votes)

Yes – and I was refused a refund (8%, 36 Votes)

Yes – and I received a refund (8%, 35 Votes)

Total Voters: 427

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Mike S says:
29 December 2011

I saw an app in the iTunes Store that looked too good to be true – £2.99 for the complete set of Tintin books. However, as it had passed Apple’s notoriously strict screening process I assumed that it was legitimate.


It worked for a while, but then stopped and after a bit of digging around the consensus on the web was that the app likely did infringe copyrighted material.

I asked Apple for a refund and pretty quickly they agreed whilst at the same time pointing out that this was an “appropriate exception to the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions, which state that all sales are final”.

I expect to see the credit in seven working days.

M.Khagram says:
15 March 2012

I downloaded creative software media tool box 6 ($39.99) from amazon which I understood will let me record what u hear from your sound card. I wanted to record lectures from internet.
Media tool bar 6 don’t have facility to record so I asked for refund from creative and this was their answer to me.
My Eamil to creative
Hi I am very disappoint with this software as I understood from creative website that this software records what U hear.
I only bought this software to record lectures for my research as I hardly afford to spend even a Single $.This software is no good to me. I want refund please.
Reply from creative
“Dear mr Khagram,
Thank you for getting back to us. With regards to your enquiry, I regret to inform you that the PCI Express X-Fi Xtreme Audio does not support What-U-Hear in Windows 7. If you have further questions, comments or concerns please include them in your reply. Thank you. Best Regards, SilvanoWorldwide Customer ResponseCreative

Richard Price says:
21 March 2012


The new Windows Phone is great but the Marketplace has a couple of major flaws:
1) It is impossible to re-install an app if it is not on the current Marketplace (unlike Apple iTunes)
2) If an app is removed from the marketplace it is impossible to re-install on a new phone (or a reset phone)
3) If the app is removed for the marketplace it seems to be removed from your purchase history which is misleading
4) Latest worry is the removal of PES 2011 (a football game) and replacement with PES 2012 – not sure if this is accidental for by design but it means I can’t reinstall PES 2011 and I would need to pay to buy PES 2012 which is classified as a different app

I would be grateful if you could raise this with Microsoft – these are not “99p” games – I think PES is £3.99


Richard Price says:
26 March 2012

Just wanted to post an update on my previous post:

I managed to contact Microsoft via the online chat support and they refunded me for three games that are no longer available without quibbling – so credit to Microsoft for this.

However…the issue of purchases missing from “Purchase history” is something that I think you should follow-up. What is the law on this? Luckily I had kept my original emails that confirmed purchase date and price. If I did not have these, I would not have been able to confirm what I had and had not purchased

aceite de oliva says:
19 April 2012

I have been browsing online more than 3 hours today, but I by no means discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours. It’s lovely worth enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the web will be a lot more helpful than ever before.

dnic says:
26 October 2012

Purchased CoPilot sat nav app for the iPhone. It turned out to be not fit for purpose. Routing not correct, voice prompts very bad, routing to road manes not numbers.

contacted Apple support via email, they came back to me in less than 15 minutes, offering to refund me the full cost back to my credit card.

That is customer service

Riley says:
26 November 2012

I’m new to Apple and the apps store so wasn’t aware of the potential to be caught out with the updates section on your imac. I had already downloaded a free app iPhoto and had a reminder that an update was available. As I had downloaded updates before that and they were free I assumed this one was free too. When it started to download I clicked on it to see what it was remedying as I thought it was just to get rid of some glitches and discovered that it was a chargeable download. In imac updates it gives a drop down list of relevant updates to you and does not give any warning of whether it’ chargeable or not. As they already have your credit card details when you set up your imac they instantly charged me. I stopped the installation but don’t know where I stand if I can request a refund as I wouldn’t have clicked on update if I’d known it was chargeable. I’ve asked around and the general consensus is that updates are generally free. It hasn’t fully downloaded as I’ve stopped it but don’t know if I can request a refund and cancel the installation process. Can anyone help?

Bought Adobe Dreamweaver from Amazon download under Adobe’s student teacher deal, for my daughter. Immediately realised it was far too advanced and asked Amazon to cancel. They refused. This was even before Adobe had agreed that I qualified for the student and teacher deal. So, I had no key for the software, was unable to install it and Amazon refuses to cancel the sale! Surely this is wrong? Amazon were unhelpful over the weekend and now Adobe has provided a key. Adobe said they’d cancel and refund but said it was up to Amazon as I’d bought it (foolishly) from them. Never again! Needless to say Amazon refuse to cancel the purchase. What can I do? I don’t want the software, I will not install it and would very much like my money back!

i purchased titanfall from origin says:
20 August 2014

I purchased titanfall from origion loaded it and found it to be only multiplayer which I hate. I tried to either get a refund, change it for something else, or transfer it to someone else like my nephew who might play it

They refused all options

I wont buy digital games again

chris smith says:
7 May 2019

Why is it that windows seems to think it as the right to commandeer my computer in order to turn it into a hub for them to ”update”, everybody and their dog, where’as they don’t care about the fact that i incurred extra charges for going over my download limit, when i very clearly told them in the settings of my laptop about this.
It appears to me to be a total infringement of my privacy. Not to mention THEFT !.!

Hi Chris,

Sorry to hear you’ve fallen foul of this.

The weblink below explains that the peer-to-peer updating system is cheekily the default set by Microsoft and also, I hope, shows how to turn it off:


I theory, you accepted this when you first agreed to use Microsoft Windows on your PC. But, even if you had actually read all the terms and conditions, I doubt that you would have realised what you were signing up for.