Federal law compels retailers to accept returns and issue refunds if they violate sales contracts or if buyers find purchased goods defective, explains FindLaw. Federal law also contains a provision, known as the cooling-off rule, that grants buyers the right to return certain purchases for a full refund for up to three days after a sale. Apart from these and other federal statutes, many states also have laws governing retail refunds.
The cooling-off rule covers sales conducted at locations such as dormitories, workplaces or homes, or at temporary sales locations such as fairgrounds, convention centers and restaurants, notes the Federal Trade Commission. However, the regulation does not cover sales worth less than $25 transacted at buyers' homes, sales of less than $130 conducted at temporary locations, or sales that are done entirely over the phone, Internet or by mail. In addition, the rule does not apply to sales involving prior negotiations at a retailer's permanent business premises, nor does it cover transactions relating to securities, insurance and real estate.
Laws relating to retail refunds also vary by state. For instance, Florida requires retailers who do not offer refunds to clearly indicate this at the point of sale, reports FindLaw. Sellers who violate this statute have to accept returns and issue full refunds for up to 20 days after a sale. In contrast, state laws in Kansas, Indiana, Georgia, Arizona and Maine do not grant buyers the right to cancel contracts and purchase agreements; refunds are thus dependent on individual retailers' return policies.