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Say I order a product online from an American company with a strict no-refunds policy. The item is, for example, a blue t-shirt. What I receive in the mail is a home tie-dyed t-shirt, with additional decorations added. Legally, I did not receive the hypothetical item I paid for, and yet the store still had a no-refunds policy.

Is the company legally required to provide the item I ordered, despite their policy, or does the no-refunds policy hold more legal power than the incorrect item. What if I had been sent a sweater instead of a t-shirt? What if I had been sent a scooter?

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Please note that I'm not a lawyer. If you need specific legal advice, please consult a qualified attorney.

Every time someone buys an item from someone else, there's at least an implied contract of sale where the seller of the item agrees to give the buyer the item to be purchased in exchange for a sum of money or other object of value which the buyer agrees to pay as consideration.

Generally, in an online purchase, a contract of sale is completed when payment is made and the product has shipped. If the seller fails to provide the item you intended to buy after you make your payment, that's a breach of this contract of sale as the seller has failed to execute their end of the contract. I seriously doubt a "no refunds" policy would excuse the vendor for breaching the contract of sale.

If you cannot resolve the issue with the vendor, then your best bet is to initiate a dispute through your credit/debit card issuer.

  • Unless you're buying some sort of mystery box, there's no such thing as adding terms that disclaim liability for sending the wrong item. The contract itself is a term of "I'm exchanging this amount of money for this specific item" and adding something that counters that essentially voids the contract because the statements contradict each other. It's like saying "I'm going to send you this item but you may not receive this item." – animuson Oct 29 '16 at 17:28
  • Nit: In general, the vendor's terms and conditions will stipulate that the contract is not formed until they dispatch the goods. In terms of England and Wales, the website is "an invitation to treat", the order is the offer, and dispatch (and not "order confirmation") is acceptance. This allows the vendor to cancel the order if they turn out to be out of stock (and also allows the customer to cancel if they change their mind - but that's a low risk). – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 29 '16 at 18:05
  • None of the above affects your correct answer btw. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 29 '16 at 18:05
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Exchanges aren't refunds, so that wouldn't be an issue.

Since you bought and paid for a particular item, that is what should be provided to you.

However the wrong item is not yours, as the company receives no consideration for it, and it should be returned.

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