Some return policies Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Consumers sometimes buy something only to discover it's not quite right or that they have selected the wrong size, or perhaps the item is damaged.

Just because one has paid for a product and brought it home doesn't mean they just have to keep quiet and move on. A consumer can demand a refund or a product replacement.

Fortunately, there are local laws in the UAE that provide protection to consumers when they spend money on brand new goods.

The Consumer Protection Law (Federal Law No 24 of 2006), for instance, provides that consumers have "the right to be protected against unsafe products; the right to be fully informed about products; and the right to request a recall of defective products."

So, if you bring home a faulty product, you can choose to either get a replacement, have the product repaired for free, or get your money back—though certain conditions may apply. If you choose the repair option, you are entitled to get a substitute product until the defective item is fixed.

"If any defects in products are found by a consumer, then the seller is required to either replace or repair any defective products at the seller's cost, or provide the consumer with a refund," Hugh Parris, associate at Clyde & Company, an international law firm, told Gulf News.

"This position is reinforced under both the Code of Consumer Rights, the executive regulation enacted under the Consumer Protection Law, and the UAE Federal Law No 5 of 1985, as amended [Civil Code]," he said.

"The Code of Consumer Rights further states that the consumer is entitled to choose the remedy they wish to take, and that the consumer is entitled to a substitute product until the defective product is repaired or replaced."

The law, however, is not clear whether or not the consumer has a right to demand a cash refund at all times, no matter what the store's policy is.

"Although it is not expressly stated, it is likely that the intention is to allow the consumer to demand a refund, as it is their choice as to the remedy open to them," Parris said.

Return policy

"However, it is likely that, where a store's return policy is clearly displayed, the store and consumer will be deemed to have agreed on the remedies available to the consumer."

Also, as a general rule, the law only protects consumers from defective products, rather than from mistaken purchases.

Consumers are advised to always enquire about a store's return or exchange policy before parting with their cash. But if they feel they have been treated unfairly, they can refer the matter to the Consumer Protection Department.

"It is not clear whether or to what extent a consumer can contract out of the Consumer Protection Law. It seems clear that a seller cannot state in their returns policy that they will not accept any returns, but it is likely that the choice of remedy may be able to be determined by the store's policy as made known to the consumer," he said.

"In any event, the Consumer Protection Department should be a consumer's first port of call."

Knowing the return policy before buying

Return or exchange guidelines can vary from one retailer to another. Some stores have lenient rules, while others don't. So, it is critical that you are aware of a store's return policy before making a purchase.

Most stores in the UAE allow customers to return goods within seven to 14 days of purchase, provided they keep the receipt, and in some cases, the original packaging.

Returns are honoured even when a customer changes his mind, picks the wrong colour or feels unsatisfied — not just when an item is defective. However, most buyers are not likely to get cash refunds.

At Jacky's Electronics, general manager Jimmy Patel, said that "subject to terms and conditions," they take back sold goods within seven days for either exchange or refund.

"The consumer has the right to get a refund but in most cases, we have experienced that the customer prefers to exchange the product. Most prefer to change the brand or upgrade to a higher specification model," he explained.

He said consumers were also entitled to anything even if they simply change their mind or cause the damage themselves.

"This happens on the shop floor where a customer changes his mind after the transaction is complete and as per our policy, we make a ‘sales return' and refund the money," Patel revealed.

"Damage by customer is covered under warranty claims, as provided by the brand, supplier or distributor. We also offer [an] extended warranty option of up to four years to our customers," he added.

Shankar Iver, general manager for Emax UAE, another electronics retailer, said a customer are entitled to exchange the goods within 14 days.

However, Iver said they don't normally issue cash refunds. Instead, a customer will be given a credit note which is valid up to six months from date of issue.

"Our policy is clear on ‘no cash' refunds, yet there might be exceptional cases in which we accept them," Iver added.

Dumond, fashion and footwear retailer, also follows the 14-day grace period for returning goods.

"[The product should be] in its original packaging, unused and supported by the original payment receipt," said Bhavesh Shah, Dumond brand manager.

Shah says customers can also get refunds if they don't want a product replacement or have the item repaired if it's defective.


In cases where the customer simply changes his mind or made a mistake, the store will still allow a product exchange.

However, if the customer happens to damage the product himself, no replacement will be granted.

When it comes to makeup or perfumes, expect some retailers to reject returns if the packaging is no longer intact.

"Goods can be exchanged within seven days of buying only if the original packaging is not tampered and the customers have the original receipt," a source at Beautybay tells Gulf News.

"Our staff ensures that the product is not at all damaged before sending it to the cashier, so customers can't come back and say the powder is cracked or the pencil is broken because they themselves check it prior to paying," she adds.

For skincare, if the customer buys something and then finds out that it has a bad texture and smell, the retailer can replace the product. "Other than this, they cannot exchange if the packaging is tampered. Perfumes can also be exchanged only if the original packaging is not tampered," she says.

When buying furniture, stores also don't easily grant cash exchanges.

Asif Seddiqi, retail manager at Homes r Us, says it is their general policy not to issue a refund.

"But [we] provide the facility of a credit note which can be redeemed at any of our seven stores, even during sales or promotion periods," he said.

"In case the customer has inadvertently received a defective piece, we are happy to exchange it, issue a credit note, or if the customer insists, give a refund," he added.

However, if a minor defect is apparent and the customer buys it will full knowledge and at a significant discount, Seddiqi says the transaction is on a no-exchange, no-return basis.

There's an incentive for buyers, though. Homes r Us will offer free repairs even if the damage has been done by the customer.

"But in case of major repairs, or if some parts need to be purchased from outside, a nominal amount would be charged," Seddiqi said.

Haroon Rashid, marketing manager for Max, a clothing retailer, said they also offer a credit note containing the value of the returned item.

The customer can then use it at any Max store in the country of initial purchase.

Customers seeking extra value beyond price alone

UAE consumers don't normally return their purchases, but when they do, they often go home with a smile on their faces.

Bardees Badr, an expatriate from Tanzania, once bought a floral dress from Splash but decided to return it, finding that her sister had bought the same outfit in the same size.

"It didn't make sense having two of the same dress. I returned to the store without a receipt, though the tag was still intact, and the manager agreed to exchange the dress with any product from the store. I left with six to seven items consisting of tube tops, scarves and accessories," Badr said.

It wasn't the first time Badr returned a product. One time, she bought a whole outfit for her little sister from New Look in Dubai, but it didn't fit quite right.

Since Badr was living in Sharjah, she opted to return the goods to another New Look outlet near her. The staff was kind enough to get the whole outfit exchanged, though she had bought it from another store.

Udita Singh, an Indian expatriate, also had to return a dress before because the seams were popping out after the first wear.

She was given the option to either get a refund or a product replacement, but since she liked the outfit a lot, Singh decided to exchange it with a new one.

"It was the first time that I actually went to a store [for an exchange] and I got a product replacement," she said.

Retailers say they don't usually encounter a lot of UAE customers returning purchased goods.

"We don't generally have many customers asking for a refund or exchange… [But] most customers [will] ask for an exchange when they buy shoes to gift someone and may want to exchange the size [or colour]," said Ali Cheaito, retail operations manager for Valencia, a shoe retailer.

Other customers also exchange their purchases when they want a different design or they realise something else goes better with their home décor, says Zurida Hassan Pearce of Lifestyle.

However, it may do well for retailers if they are not so strict with their return or exchange policies.

Colin Beaton, founder and managing director of Limelight Creative Services, notes that consumers are now looking for more value, which extends beyond price alone to things like bundled offerings or consumer-friendly and flexible exchange policies.

"We believe there is a lot to be gained by being less rigid retailer when it comes to interacting with customers. Retailers should treat their customers as they would like to be treated when they are, themselves, a customer," he said.

Studies have shown that most retailers are keeping their return policies the same this year so, although it doesn't look like many are easing the rules yet, Beaton says "it's something we are bound to see in the not too distant future."

Customer care

  • 14: grace period for returning faulty goods, in days
  • 7: days to exchange faulty cosmetics at Beautybay
  • 6: months in which Emax credit note is valid

* From date of purchase Note: General policies prescribed herein could be subject to terms and conditions. Check with your retailer for more details