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Refunds, Exchanges, Returns, and Warranties

Did you ever buy a product that didn’t work, was defective, or that somehow just didn’t live up to your expectations or the seller’s promise?

New Brunswick’s Consumer Product Warranty and Liability Act (CPWALA) allows you to seek compensation when a product does not meet reasonable expectations.

Everyone who buys new or used consumer product (defined as any good intended for personal, family, or household use) from a New Brunswick vendor is protected under the Act.

When you buy a product from a seller, you can assume that:

  • they have the right to sell the product and you can own the product without a third party making a claim on it, unless you knew about the claim before the contract was made
  • the product you buy will comply with health, safety, and quality standards
  • the product is fit for its normal use or purpose, taking into account the seller’s description
  • the product is fit for any special use or purpose that you make known to the seller before you buy
  • the product is new and unused, unless the seller states that it is used
  • the product does what it is supposed to do
  • the goods and any of its parts will be reasonably durable

In many cases dealers are afforded the same rights as the consumer under CPWALA. Not only does this legislation protect the end consumer, but it also gives dealers extensive protection against their own suppliers, putting the legal responsibility back to the source of the problem.

Warranties

Your rights are based on two types of warranties.

Express warranties

Express warranties are the promises or statements made by a distributor that you rely on when making your purchase decision. These promises or statements can be verbal or written in contracts, or written on product packaging, signs or other accompanying product documents.

Implied warranties

They cover title, quality, and fitness for purpose. They apply in every case regardless of whether the distributor promises or says anything. The distributor is not normally responsible for defects that are known to you or disclosed to you before the contract is made. If you are purchasing a used product, and have examined the product before purchase, the distributor would not be responsible for any defects that your examination should have revealed.

Exchanges, returns, and refunds

If a product falls short of reasonable expectations, you can typically request a repair, replacement, or refund from the distributor.

Many of us assume that we have the right to return a product if we simply change our mind or are unhappy with our purchase within 30 days, but that’s a myth. In New Brunswick, sellers are not required to offer refunds, returns, or exchanges if a consumer changes their mind. Sellers have the right to set their own return and exchange policies, decide how long a consumer has to return a product, and whether the consumer’s refund will be given in cash or a store credit. Before making a purchase, ask the seller what their exchange policy is and be sure to receive a copy of the policy when making a purchase. The return policy can usually be found on the back of your receipt. Tip: receipts fade quickly. Photocopy or take a picture of it!

Complaints

The Consumer Product Warranties and Liabilities Act (CPWALA) protects consumers against goods that fall short of reasonable expectations and is enforced through the courts.

A judge ultimately decides how the Act should be applied in each case. As a consumer, you have two options:

  • Negotiate a resolution with the distributor.
  • Take the distributor to court (typically small claims court for matters up to $20,000).

Making a complaint

CPWALA applies only to the purchase of consumer products, but you can use the tips below to make a complaint about any product or service that fell short of your expectations.

  • Don’t wait. Bring the issue to the seller’s attention as soon as possible. It’s much easier to return a product within the return period set by the seller’s return policy. Always be sure to check the return policy before you buy.
  • Explain the problem. Tell the seller or service provider why you are not satisfied with the product or service.
  • Keep records (and include details in your complaint). Keep all receipts and make a note of any details relevant to your complaint, such as:
    • receipt of purchase
    • receipts for repairs
    • the product’s serial number
    • account numbers
    • the date the issue was discovered
    • dates of inquiries made to the retailer
    • correspondence with the retailer or service provider
    • photographs, etc.
  • Give the seller a chance to solve the problem. If your issue cannot be resolved by the seller, you may need to escalate your complaint to their head office.
  • Be calm and respectful. Making a complaint can be frustrating. Raising your voice, insulting the seller, or being aggressive will make it difficult to communicate the problem and focus on a solution.
  • Always have a solution. Ask specifically for what you want. Do you want to return the product? Or do you want a discount for services performed?
  • Put it in writing. Writing a complaint letter provides a record of your complaint.

Transactions covered

CPWALA legislation applies only to the kinds of goods (new or used) that are commonly used for personal, family or household purposes. The legislation applies to goods supplied under:

  • contracts of sale
  • contracts for services
  • leases

The legislation applies to everyone in the chain of distribution:

  • retailers
  • wholesalers
  • manufacturers

The legislation does not apply to private sales between individuals.