Wendy Knowler masthead
December 12 2011 at 11:57

As you head to the malls to tick off your Christmas present list, are you finding out what the stores’ returns policies are before you hand over your money?

If your son lands up with two identical toys, or your mother-in-law doesn’t fancy the scarf you picked out for her, will the stores in question take them back and issue a refund?

As I’ve said repeatedly in this column this year, the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) does not cover the return of goods which are not defective. So retailers have the right to come up with their own take-back terms.

They also have the right to refuse point-blank to take back non-defective goods at all. Many do, particularly small, independent stores.

It’s a different story when it comes to defective goods. The CPA allows consumers to return defective goods for the consumer’s choice of a refund, replacement or repair within six months of purchase.

But it’s not quite that simple, particularly in the case of mechanical or electronic goods.

The supplier has the right to have the allegedly defective goods assessed to determine the cause of the problem, and may well refuse any recourse on the grounds that the consumer somehow abused the product.

Interestingly, faulty cellphones and, in many cases, other electronic items as well, are not being treated in compliance with the CPA’s defective goods return |provisions – this is a matter for the National Consumer Commission to deal with and will be the subject of a separate column.

So, in the countdown to Christmas, I phoned nine major retailer groups – some of them representing many brands – and asked them to spell out their returns policies, specifically for non-defective gifts purchases.

All take back unwanted gifts, but the terms vary.

Remember: query a store’s returns policies with regard to change-of-heart purchases before you pay. 

What’s the policy of major retailers?


Woolworths will take back goods bought from any Woolworths store in the country for a refund or an exchange, where similar goods are sold, within 60 days of purchase. So don’t try to return an unwanted top at a food-only Woolies.

If you can’t produce a till slip as proof of purchase, a gift voucher will be issued instead of cash, and you will have to accept the amount currently in the system. If the item has since gone on sale, you’ll be issued a voucher to the value of the sale price.

If you exchange an unwanted gift without a till slip, and you are due change, that change will be issued in the form of a gift voucher.

* Sale or clearance goods have different returns terms and conditions, printed on till slips.


Makro will issue refunds or exchanges for goods within 14 days of purchase, provided they are in their original condition and packaging and have not been used in any way.

If you have a Makro card, you don’t need to produce a till slip.

Exclusions: Underwear, toothbrushes, software and CDs.


(Edgars, Jet, Boardmans, Legit, Red Square, CNA and Prato)

Goods can be returned in their original packaging within 30 days of purchase. Proof of purchase – a till slip or gift receipt – is required.

Exceptions: Swimwear, underwear bottoms, evening wear, hosiery, hair accessories, cosmetic accessories, earrings, body piercing products, infant’s bottles, feeders, breast pumps, dummies, baby consumables, personal care products and all supplements.

Gift cards will not be exchanged for cash and no change will be given, but the balance will remain on the gift card.


(Foschini, Totalsports, Exact!, @Home, Markham, Due South, American Swiss, Sterns, Fashion Express, Donna-Claire etc)

You have 30 days to return non-defective items in original packaging, excluding underwear, swimwear, cosmetics and earrings for pierced ears.

Goods must be in original packaging, unopened and unused, and proof of purchase must be produced. Refunds are issued for cash purchases, and account purchases will be credited on the customers’ account.

“Our return policy is a guideline for the stores. We encourage a customer-centric approach and stores deal with each query individually, keeping the interest of the customer in mind,” said a spokesman.


You have 14 days to return non-defective, unwanted items for an exchange or refund, even if the item has been opened and used, as long as the item is in its original condition and has the original packaging.

No handling fee will be charged, unless the items are missing parts such as start-up disks, cables, instruction manuals and internal protective packaging.

If you can’t produce  a till slip, the company can track the purchase  from any branch through serial numbers.

The 14-day limit will be extended to cater for public holidays.

Incredible Connection will also exchange or refund – in the form of gift vouchers – “any item that we sell for the same value as long as the item is unopened and the packaging is 100 percent intact”.


“Shoprite Checkers has always tried to accommodate customers who return unwanted gifts after the holidays. If it is a product we sell and it is fit for resale (in its original packaging and not abused), we will exchange it for another product to the same value.

“Without a till slip customers will not get a refund. We hardly ever see festive season gifts returned long after the school term has started, so we have not set a time limit.

“Managers use discretion if requests in this regard are made long after January.”


Clicks allows customers 60 days in which to return a product for a full refund, replacement or exchange, if they have the till slip and the item is in its original unopened packaging. “If customers don’t have their till slip anymore we will be happy to exchange this at the current system price.”

Exclusions: Cosmetics, personal grooming items, jewellery for pierced ears and navels and medicine.


The principle is: they’ll swop it if they stock it. If a customer has bought an item, or has been given an item, that they do not want, they can return it to Game for an exchange. No till slip is required.

Provided they stock the item, Game will issue a gift voucher for the advertised value of the item.

So even if the item was not bought at Game, it can still be exchanged at Game for an item you prefer.

There is no time limit on this offer.


“Most goods will be refunded or exchanged if they are returned within 10 business days of purchase. |Customers are required to present proof of payment and the goods must be in their original packaging and |condition.”

DVDs, games, CDs, software, books and newspapers will only be refunded if they are in their original packaging and unused.

Customers may return perishable goods should they not be satisfied with their quality, within the product’s sell-by date, if it is in its original packaging. The exception is goods which present a possible health risk.


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