Woman Runs Into Product Return Roadblock

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NEW FRANKLIN - When Deana Harvey bought a vacuum cleaner as a gift, she had no idea the purchase would take her deep into the rules and regulations regarding product return policies.

"I went to the store and the owner of the store would not accept it back in return," Harvey said. "He explained to me that once a warranty card had been mailed in on an appliance that it could no longer be returned and sold as new again."

Harvey said the owner of the store, All Vacuum Care in Columbia, actually offered to send the card in for her as a customer service, but did not warn her it would void her ability to return the vacuum.

"He was very aware I was buying it as a gift for someone else and it was disturbing to me that he would not be able to take it back and he never told me that when I made the purchase," Harvey said.

Harvey said the owner referenced a federal law preventing him from taking the vacuum back. Tony Giorgianni, an associate editor for ConsumerReports.org, said in an e-mail that he's not aware of such a law.

"We've never heard of anything like that, and we're virtually certain that no such requirement exists," Giorgianni said.

However, Giorgianni said he has heard of the policy before and that warranty cards may be required for consumers to get their warranty.

"For limited warranties, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act does not prohibit merchants from requiring the return of registration cards as condition to providing an express warranty," Giorgianni said. "Some retailers or manufacturers have policies not to accept return of an item once the warranty card or rebate form has been filled out and returned."

But the warranty card issue might not really be the real reason Harvey could not return the vacuum. While she claims the vacuum was never used, the store owner believed it to be used.  Joy Petty, marketing director for the vacuum's manufacturer, Riccar, said in an e-mail that whether or not the device was used is the main factor.

"The real issue is one of fact, not law," Petty said. "Was the vacuum used to clean a floor? If not, in my opinion, it is still a 'new' vacuum and could be sold as such."

Petty said the company trusts the store's decision on whether a vacuum has been used.

"Since we haven't seen the vacuum, we can't determine the facts on this," Petty said. "As much as we can contribute is our belief, based on past reputable dealings with the owner, that he can tell when a vacuum has been used."

Harvey lost $200 on the vacuum, but said she could have done something differently.

"At the time of purchase, I should have asked about a return policy because I knew I was buying a gift and I should have asked him up front," Harvey said. "I took it for granted."

KOMU 8 News contacted the store owner but he refused to comment on the situation.