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A store accepts payment by payment cards, including debit and credit cards. Refunds are allowed, however due to a technical problem refunds cannot be made to debit cards.

Sometimes a refund is necessary if a mistake was made, for example if the clerk scans the same item multiple times or the scanning gun malfunctions. This happened and the customer paid by debit and didn't have a credit card. (The mistake was caught after the customer read the receipt). Also the store does not carry cash. The store can give him the products that he paid for, but may the customer insist on getting a refund? Could the store give the customer credit, or must they actually return the money?

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  • 3
    Is the error temporary? Is it something the store has control over?
    – Unfair-Ban
    May 25 at 11:09
  • 2
    @Studoku management knows but doesn't get it fixed, so in that sense no it's not temporary. May 25 at 11:19
  • 2
    Can't refund to the debit card and don't have cash? Bank transfer. Paypal. Mobile payments. There are tons of alternatives, you only need to agree on one.
    – jcaron
    May 26 at 0:38
  • 9
    @gmauch In some parts of the world, stores that don't accept cash as a form of payment are not exceptional. A store that doesn't take cash payments wouldn't be carrying cash either.
    – gerrit
    May 26 at 8:13
  • 5
    @alephzero Crazy talk. I've had zero problems getting refunds on my debit card from various stores without even having to show who I am, at least when I've used the same card to pay with.
    – pipe
    May 28 at 9:48
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Could the store give the customer credit or must they actual return the money?

The store has the legal obligation to return the money if the customer demands to be reimbursed. Section 155(4)(a) of the BC Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act explicitly provides reimbursement "to a consumer or class of consumers".

The store's unilateral, inflexible decision to give the customer credit in lieu of a reimbursement is in violation of sections 8(3)(a) and 9(1) of the Act. That approach constitutes undue pressure to enter into an additional consumer transaction, more so where management is aware of the issue and refuses to fix it.

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  • Just to be extra clear, this answer still holds even when customers can be refunded to credit cards? May 26 at 20:53
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    @casablancaeggplant I'm no lawyer etc but I'd say yes obviously. It would be completely senseless, much beyond the point of "laws sometimes don't make sense".
    – o0'.
    May 26 at 22:07
  • However, does it specify that the refund must be returned the way the money was initially paid? If a shop cannot reimburse a credit card, but can give cash, is that in violation?
    – Flater
    May 26 at 22:41
  • 6
    @Flater "If a shop cannot reimburse a credit card, but can give cash, is that in violation?" No. What matters is that the reimbursement must enable the customer to spend that money elsewhere (or not spend it at all). May 26 at 22:53
  • @casablancaeggplant "this answer still holds even when customers can be refunded to credit cards?" Yes. The statutory protection against undue pressure is independent of customers' method of payment. May 26 at 22:56
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Based on how the debit clearinghouses work, it's fantastically unlikely that the retailer is unable to reverse/refund a transaction. That is how the banks want you to do it!!!!

The reason is simple: Suppose you charge $123.45 to my card, we have a dispute. Two things happen in parallel: a) you decide I am right and refund my $123.45, and b) I do a "chargeback" on my debit card.

  • *As long as you have reversed/refund the same transaction, the credit card company will go "OK, these are just the same thing" and they will drop investigation of the chargeback since you already agreed to the refund.
  • However, if you do a standalone reverse charge, then I get $123.45 back, and then the chargeback is investigated, and then another $123.45 is refunded! Now we have another big mess.

Occam's Razor says that either the individual clerk does not have the skills (or authority, though that seems like a blunder in a retail setting) to do the refund on their point-of-sale system...

... Or... the clerk does not want to give your refund, and is hoping to scam you with lies.

In this case, there's a simple (but perilous) answer: the vendor can do a cash refund. That is what they need to do if they can't work the machine properly. Cash is "Legal tender for all debts, public and private". The problem, then, is if a chargeback also occurs, again double refund.

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  • 1
    Re "The problem, then, is if a chargeback also occurs, again double refund.", But that's the retailer's problem, not the consumer's. If they're using a system not capable of issuing refunds, that's on them.
    – ikegami
    May 25 at 22:14
  • 3
    It's possible, even probable, the clerk doesn't have the ability to reverse the charge and/or issue a credit on the card. In many POS systems and/or card processing terminals, reversing a charge and/or issuing a credit are features which can be disabled, hidden, password protected, and/or restricted to certain job roles. Reversals and/or credits may only be available to a manager and/or owner of the business. Depending on the card processor (i.e. the company the business has an agreement with to process cards), those functions may be locked-out from access by anyone at the retail business.
    – Makyen
    May 26 at 1:51
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    @Makyen Good point, added... but it would be a serious blunder in retail for nobody present in the store to be able to issue a refund. May 26 at 6:07
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica this was in bigger retail stores, but every single time I've done a refund it was the shift supervisor who had to be called to process it. Clerks didn't have the authority to do so. Which, actually, gives us another possible motive: the clerk makes a lot of mistakes and doesn't want the supervisor to know. May 26 at 10:25
  • 2
    @JanDorniak Right. What's not cool is when it's a small shop (e.g. convenience store) and all the staff present "conveniently" are unauthorized to give refunds. May 28 at 4:06
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Yes. They owe you a debt, they can’t just shrug their shoulders and say no can do, but neither are they obligated to repay it in a specific manner.

But they also can’t just hand over a company cash card or a plushy and say the debt is paid in full. You have to agree to accept it. Which would mainly be either cash or putting the money back (given the way the banking system works, I don’t think you could legally refuse to accept a reversal of a debit charge).

Since this is Canada, you might be able to get away with refusing cash in some circumstances, although I would think it unlikely — it isn’t mandatory to accept cash for all debts, but by the time it gets to court, I don’t see what else you could reasonably be asking for. On the other hand, the option to refuse cash and take it to small claims court could give you some leverage. If you won, you’d end up with cash, but they would have had to pay to file a defense at the very least and possibly pay your fees as well, plus any related expenses (their lawyer or representative’s time).

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