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Top tips for returning technology goods

How to take back unwanted gifts and gadgets

Getting a retailer to accept electronics returns can quickly develop into a saga. Know your rights! Here are some tips to help you navigate the tricky world of returns, exchanges, and warranties.

Don't be a regular returner

Believe it or not, companies exist that help retailers track your return habits. The purpose of such monitoring is to reduce fraud, but even if you're an honest person who simply has difficulty making decisions, frequent returns can get you in trouble. Retailers may simply refuse to accept your return or permit an exchange.

If your attempt to return a gadget has been denied because you make frequent returns or exchanges, find out which company the retailer uses to monitor returns, and protest directly to it.

What if the product is busted?

No retailer wants to sell you damaged goods. If you open the box and your product doesn't work, the store that sold it to you should take it back. That said, the retailer is not likely to give you a refund; rather, it will most likely require you to exchange the item for a functioning unit.

"Any type of damaged product can be exchanged for that same product," says Best Buy's Dudash. He recommends that customers check with the store before exercising the manufacturer's warranty: "Come back to the store first - it's more convenient."

When to contact the manufacturer

If you've used the item extensively or waited several months to take it back, however, returning the item to the retailer will not be an option. At that point, it's time to check your manufacturer's warranty.

Almost all new gadgets come with limited warranties, but their coverage varies widely. Sony, for example, guarantees its LCD colour TVs for parts and labour for up to one year after purchase. The company's portable audio players, on the other hand, are guaranteed for parts and labour for only up to 90 days after purchase. Don't fret if you've misplaced your warranty card, though: many manufacturers make product warranties available online for download in PDF form.

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