I bought a gizmo for $46.99 plus $5.05 in sales tax. A few months later, the manufacturer issued a product safety recall for the gizmo. Rather than repair or replace the defective units, they would issue a refund for the item.

To get the refund, I had to send a photograph showing that the device had been disabled (by cutting off the power cord) and my receipt showing how much I paid.

I provided the requested information and received a refund check for $46.99. In other words, I'm out the sales tax. Five bucks isn't going to break me, but it got me wondering what the rules are here.

If I had simply been dissatisfied with the product and returned it to the retailer (within the applicable time frame), the retailer would have refunded the purchase price and the sales tax. Then again the retailer--not the manufacturer--is the one that collected the sales tax.

Should the sales tax be refunded by when the manufacturer recalls a product?

Jurisdiction: Alameda County, California, U.S.A.

Aside: A further annoyance is that, along with the gizmo, I had also purchased approximately $25 of consumable supplies that became useless to me once I learned I should no longer use the gizmo. Fortunately, the supplies are compatible with other models of said gizmo (from the same manufacturer), so I ended up buying a different model--at a higher price--with slightly fewer features. It's great that the new one is less likely to burn down my house, but it seems like I've paid more for that assurance than I should have.

  • Do you know if there is any law that says the manufacturer has to provide refunds like this at all, whether they include sales tax or not? I'd start there - if they don't have to provide refunds to you I guess they don't have to include the tax either. My guess from an English perspective is that only the retailer is obliged to give you a refund.
    – bdsl
    Jan 4 at 13:08
  • 1
    In the U.S., product safety recalls like these are conducted by the manufacturer (or importer) in conjunction with a federal agency called the Consumer Product Safety Commission. (Some specific categories of products are handled by other agencies.) I know the commission can compel a recall but many recalls are initiated voluntarily by the manufacturer. It seems every recall must have a "remedy" such as repair, replacement, or refund. I'm not familiar with the laws and regulations surrounding recalls, so I guess that's the underlying gist of my question. Jan 4 at 15:23


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