State Urges Shoppers To Know Merchandise Return Rules

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Christmas Tree made of poinsettias at Kahala Mall (Photo by George Waialeale)

REPORT FROM THE DCCA – HONOLULU — Holiday shopping has begun and the state’s Office of Consumer Protection wants you to be prepared when heading to the stores.

Before purchasing a gift, or merchandise in general, shoppers should make sure they understand the merchant’s return and exchange policy.


Merchants may establish one of four return policies:
·        Refunds only
·        Refunds or merchandise credit only
·        Exchanges or merchandise credit only
·        No refunds, merchandise credits or exchanges

Stores can have their own return policies, but their policies must be posted in locations that are easy to find and read before a purchase is made. If there are no easily visible signs, Hawaii law requires merchants to accept the return of goods and provide a refund.

Here are a couple of points to note when shopping:
·        Always keep your receipts!
·        Merchandise credits must be good for a minimum of two years from the date issued.
·        The law covering returns also can be applied to layaway cancellations.
·        Merchants cannot charge a restocking fee for a return, unless it is a custom or special order and the policy is stated to the customer beforehand.

Be aware that there could be special provisions or exclusions for specific types of merchandise, such as custom/special ordered goods, clearance, sale goods, holiday wear or seasonal items.

If consumers have questions, or if they wish to file a complaint, they can call the Consumer Resource Center at 587-4272 on Oahu or e-mail the Office of Consumer Protection at


The Office of Consumer Protection is the primary agency responsible for reviewing, investigating and prosecuting allegations of unfair or deceptive trade practices in consumer transactions.