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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

The Commonwealth Ensures Your Fruitcake is Fresh

By: Jenelle C. Dodds, Esq.

It’s that time of year again; time to go shopping for the holidays. There are a lot of things to worry about when choosing a gift: what should I buy? what happens if they don’t like it? what if there is something wrong with what I buy? Massachusetts’s consumer protection laws may not be able to help you pick a present, but they can answer the last two questions for you.

You may be surprised to learn that stores in Massachusetts can have whatever return policy they want, which can be a final sale or no refund policy. However, retailers in Massachusetts are required to clearly and conspicuously disclose their refund, return or cancellation policies to consumers before a sale. Always pay careful attention to the return policy posted in a store and keep your receipt. There is one important exception to the rule on return policies - even if the store says that a sale is final or gives you only a limited number of days to take something back, there is an implied warranty of merchantability on all items sold in consumer transactions in Massachusetts. This means that all stores are basically telling you that their product will work for a reasonable period of time. So, regardless of the return policy, a store has to repair or replace any defective merchandise or give you a refund.

And if you can’t decide on any particular item, you can always purchase a gift certificate. If it is for a store in Massachusetts, the lucky recipient will have at least seven years from the date you buy it to choose their own gift, and that should be long enough for your most finicky relative.

Jenelle C. Dodds is an attorney in the Business & Finance Department at Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP in Springfield, where she focuses on general corporate and business matters.

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