Merchants must post return policy
Is it legal for retailers in the state to charge a restocking fee if you return an item for any reason or does it depend on the reason for the return and what kind of retailer or merchandise you are returning? I don't have anything in writing from the retailer, only from a telephone inquiry.
Answer: Merchants generally are prohibited from charging restocking fees.
They may charge such fees -- if it's first disclosed in writing -- for custom orders. In that case, they may charge you for the cost of shipping, repacking, etc., explained Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection.
Under the state's refund and exchange law, merchants also are supposed to post their policies in a conspicuous manner, he said.
Asked if his office has received complaints about restocking fees, Levins said, "Consumers have filed complaints relating to Sears," and an investigation is continuing.
"If anyone has concerns regarding restocking fees merchants are assessing for their returns, they should contact our office," he said.
Q: I use very few bottles and cans and have not attempted to return these to the recyclers until now. I have accumulated several hundred, all sorted by size. Both of the recycling trucks that I am aware of, in Kaneohe, do not count the containers, but weigh them. What about the five cents a can or bottle that we are owed?
A: If you feel you are not getting your containers' worth via the weighing method, you can bring in fewer than 50 containers at a time.
Under the state Department of Health's administrative rules, "Consumers may request that redemption value be computed by container, rather than by weight, for loads under 50 containers."
Another option is to take them to a redemption site that offers reverse vending machines, which accept containers individually.
You can find a list of redemption centers and reverse vending machines at www.hawaii.gov/health/ environmental/waste/sw/ sw/hi5/ (click on "redemption"). Or, call the Health Department at 586-4226.
The Health Department allows a redemption company to weigh loads of 50 containers or more, than pay by the weight.
Payment depends on the type of container redeemed and is based on the average number per pound: aluminum, 30 containers; bi-metal, eight containers; plastic, 16.6 containers; and glass, 2.4 containers.
So, you'd be paid $1.50 for a pound of aluminum cans (30 X 5 cents = $1.50).
According to the Health Department, you may sometimes receive more than 5 cents per container, and sometimes you may receive less.
Q: I remember vaguely that it was OK to flatten cans for reimbursement. Is that provision still in effect?
However, crushed containers are not accepted in reverse vending machines.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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