"Most gift givers and recipients alike assume they can return items at will for a full refund, but that's not always the case," McDaniel said, in a press release. "Consumers shopping for last-minute gifts or those who want to return the presents they receive should read each retail store's policy on refunds and exchanges."
Contrary to what some consumers may believe, there is no law requiring retailers to accept returns for a full refund or credit. Retailers are not required to accept at-will returns, and even in the case of a defective product, consumers may be required to contact the manufacturer of the product. In those instances, the recipients of a gift may have to shoulder the burden of shipping the product back to the manufacturer.
Return policies differ from store to store, though most retailers will offer refunds or exchanges if a product is returned promptly, with a receipt. Consumers should always consider asking retailers for a "gift receipt" that can be included with a gift and make the return process easier for recipients.
Consumers should also keep in mind that some retailers have an "All Sales Are Final" policy, usually for deeply discounted items or those that would be difficult to resell.
Likewise, for many big-ticket items or certain products not returned in the condition they were purchased, retailers may charge restocking fees for returns. Those fees can be anywhere between 10 and 25 percent of the purchase price. Retailers may assess a restocking fee for items that cannot be resold as new after a box has been opened. So, gift recipients should make sure they actually want an item before opening things like gaming consoles, TVs, DVDs and CDs or software.
For items purchased online, retailers may require returns to be shipped back, and consumers may be required to pay shipping costs. Buyers should check the online retailers' policy before buying, and also let the gift recipient know.
McDaniel reiterated that consumers should review and understand a store's return policy; keep all receipts, and ask retailers for gift receipts; don't open a box if unsure about keeping an item; and remember that online purchases may be more difficult to return.