Returned Mattress Laws and Refunds
Nearly every consumer has returned a purchased mattress for an exchange, refund or store credit at least once. Usually, the experience is quite normal, although sometimes mattress returns don’t always go the way we’d like them to. But while mattress retailers aren’t required to accept returns (unless there’s a defect, in which case it will be covered by the warranty), certain laws establish the disclosure of return and refund policies in the U.S.
Refunds and Returns: U.S. Federal Law
While state laws primarily address the issue of returned mattresses, there’s no federal law that requires a mattress retailer to refund money. Per most state laws, refunds are subject to the established mattress store refund policy at the time of purchase, unless the purchased mattress is found to be useless for the purpose of which it was intended. A customer changing his/her mind after making a mattress purchase, such as deciding they want a bed with coils (rather than foam), is not the fault of the retailer and the latter cannot be held responsible.
In broad terms, most mattress stores do offer refunds. It’s usually pursuant to a bed store policy which explicitly that returns are to be extended, in order to strength its brand in the community; but this is simply a mattress store policy – not a federal law.
Deceptive Claims and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Federal law does provide some, limited protections to mattress buyers through the FTC, who enforces federal consumer protection laws that are meant to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, or unfair business practices such as false advertising. Such agency will sue mattress retailers that make deceptive claims about their products or services. When the FTC settles a case, it tries to obtain refunds for buyers who lost money, if that’s possible, but these refunds are based on unfair or deceptive business practice regulations, not state refunds laws, i.e. mattress refunds are a state law contract issue.
Mattress Return Fraud
There are numerous ways buyers can defraud a mattress retailer through the usual return process, but not all legitimate returns are distinguishable from return fraud.
Returned mattresses are either marked down, thrown away (recycled), or donated to a local church or charity organization and often incur significant costs associated with being restocked.
Refunds and Returns: U.S. State Law
Many states in the U.S. have general laws governing mattress refunds, although not all of them offer guidance on how such laws should apply to their residents who buy beds-in-a-box from out-of-state retailers online. Below are a few examples of U.S. state laws addressing mattress refunds:
- Mattress retailers in California are required to clearly post online their refund policy unless they offer full cash refund, store credit or exchange within 7 days of the purchase date. Failing this requirement, buyers may return the mattress for a full refund within 30 days of the purchase.
- Mattress retailers in Florida that don’t offer refunds must post online this fact where customers can see. Failing this requirement, buyers may return the mattress for a full refund within 20 days of the purchase.
- In the state of Illinois, residents may cancel mattress transactions (and get a full refund) within 3 business days for door-to-door sales, gym memberships and campground memberships.
In most cases, regardless of how a mattress retailer establishes its own return policy, the conditions of such a policy must be prominently displayed at the place of purchase and respective websites for it to be considered valid.
Mattress retailers may charge a re-stocking fee for returned mattresses, which covers the cost of replacing the packaging in order to sell it as new. However, state laws determine whether or not buyers must be notified about these fees prior to purchase. For example, in the state of NY, mattress retailers are required to prominently display their re-stocking fee policies prior to the point of purchase; while in the state of New Hampshire, such notification is not required.
Other fees, such as restocking fees, normally must be made clear in the retailer’s policy language. Regardless of whether each U.S. state requires disclosure of return policies, you should ask any mattress retailer for their particular policy before making a purchase. Additionally, states may or may not explicitly apply their laws to online sales.
Below are summaries of state laws governing refunds of mattress retail sales items:
- In the state of California, mattress retailers are required to clearly post their refund policy unless they offer a full cash refund, store credit or exchange within 7 days of the purchase date. Mattress retailers failing this specific requirement are required to accept full refunds within 30 days of purchase.
- In the states of Connecticut and Hawaii, each mattress retailer may set its own refund policy, which must be clearly disclosed at the time of sale. If the policy isn’t properly disclosed, or if the mattress retailer doesn’t have a refund policy, the buyer may return the purchased mattress for a refund.
- In the state of Florida, mattress retailers that don’t offer refunds must clearly display this fact at the place of sale. Failing this specific requirement, buyers may return mattress(es) for a full refund within 20 days of purchase.
- In the state of Maryland, mattress retailers must post their return policies on the wall, on the merchandise, or on the receipt. If such policy isn’t posted, the mattress retailer must accept the returned mattress within a reasonable time.
- In the state of Massachusetts, a mattress retailer’s return, refund or cancellation policy must be disclosed to the buyer clearly before the transaction is completed. This is usually done by means of a sign at the point of purchase. Mattresses may be returned within a reasonable period of time if no return policy was disclosed to the buyer.
- In the state of Minnesota, a mattress retailer must clearly display written notice of its policy in boldface type of a minimum size of 14 points. If the seller fails this specific requirement, cash refunds are required of mattresses that are acceptable for return.
- In the state of New Jersey, mattress retailers must clearly post their refund policies. Businesses with no posted refund policies are liable to the buyer, for up to 20 days from purchase, for a cash refund or a credit.
- In the state of New York, a mattress store is legally required to post its refund policy. If such store doesn’t post any return policy, it will have to accept returns within 30 days of purchase.
- In the state of Ohio, a mattress retailer isn’t required to have a specific refund policy, but if it does have a refund policy, the policy must be clearly posted. If not, the buyer is entitled to a full refund.
- In the state of Rhode Island, unless a buyer has been clearly informed by a poster or other appropriate notice placed at the point of display or at the cash register or at the mattress store entrance that all sales are final and that mattresses aren’t returnable, a customer who has paid for it can return such mattress within 10 business days from the date of purchase.
- In the state of Utah, if the mattress retailer has a non-refund, exchange, or credit policy, such policy must be clearly indicated by a sign posted at the point-of-display, the point-of-sale, or the store entrance. If such seller fails this specific requirement, the buyer is entitled to a mattress return.
- In the state of Virginia, the mattress retailer must notify its customers of its return policy by means of a sign attached to the mattress or placed in a public area of the merchant’s premises. The mattress retailer is exempt from this specific requirement if it provides a credit refund (or cash) within 20 days of the purchase.
- Finally, in the remaining states (i.e. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming), there’s no right to cancel purchase or contracts agreements. Whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the mattress retailer’s refund and return policies.