How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (2023)

There is a good chance that one of your customers will eventually have to return a purchased item. A clear and straightforward return policy will give your customers a good experience when returning something and leave them with a satisfied opinion of your store.

In this article, you will learn how to write a return policy that is concise, effective, and makes sense to your customers.

Table of Contents
  1. What Is the Purpose of a Return Policy?
  2. Return Policy Solutions
  3. Common Questions to Answer in Your Return Policy
  4. What Your Return Policy Needs to Include
  5. What to Avoid in a Return Policy
  6. Tips for Writing a Good Return Policy
  7. Where to Display Your Return Policy
  8. Wrapping Up

What Is the Purpose of a Return Policy?

The purpose of a return policy is to outline the specific requirements as to how, when, and under what circumstances shoppers can return their purchased items. In addition, a return policy demonstrates that you care about your customers and their satisfaction with your goods and services.

An effective return policy helps protect your business from fraudulent returns while serving as a consistent process that makes sense to both you and your customers. It also makes you more legitimate and trustworthy in a customer’s eyes.

Return Policy Solutions

There are three methods available for creating a return policy. However, you need to be clear and direct; whether you make one yourself or use a managed solution or template.

Managed Solution(Recommended)

Return policies are often coupled with refund and exchange policies, which need to be detailed and transparent. If you need a comprehensive approach that is clear and easy to understand, build one for free with our refund and return policy generator.

Regardless of your business’s size, type, platform, or location, simply answer a few questions to generate a return and refund policy.

Use Termly to Save Time on Your Return Policy

Here’s how you can use Termly’s generator to easily create a comprehensive return policy:

Step 1: Go to Termly’s return policy generator.

Step 2: Answer our prompts and questions, and go through all of the steps until you reach “Final Details.”

How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (1)

Step 3: Once you’ve filled in everything and you are satisfied with the preview, click “Publish.” You will then be prompted to create an account on Termly so you can save and edit your return policy further.

Return Policy Generator


Every business needs a well-written and comprehensive return policy. So, if you need some guidance while writing one, you can download our free return policy template.


You can do it yourself and write a return policy specific to your business using the information provided in this guide.However, this is the hardest option to choose.

If you do choose to write it yourself, be sure to follow our return policy writing guide below for tips and suggestions.

Common Questions to Answer in Your Return Policy

How Long Do I Have To Return Something?

Return windows are key; one of the first things customers will look for is the length of your return window. Therefore, this information must be prominent.

It’s important to know how much time is available for a customer to make a final decision on an item they’ve purchased. If your customer is on the fence, knowing they have a longer return window may be just the thing that pushes them toward a purchase.

How Long Will the Return Process Take?

Customers want to know how long the overall process will take. Once items are returned, 72% of customers expect a refund within five days. This is a tight window depending on the return system each company uses.

Offer to send emails or text messages to keep customers updated on the process each step of the way.

What, If Anything, Will It Cost Me?

According to consumer surveys, 79% of shoppers want free returns — with 47% wanting an easy-to-print return label.

Determining who pays for return shipping is an issue because businesses don’t want to operate at a loss, but customers expect that returns will not cost them anything.

You may find that you need to charge a processing fee, provide only partial returns, or have returns be mailed only to a specific facility. Decide what is best for your business and present it to the customer.

Do You Grant Refunds or Store Credit?

Offering only in-store credit can have a chilling effect on sales. Shoppers want the flexibility of choosing to stay with your product or receiving a full refund if the need arises. But you may be a smaller business that can’t survive a full refund policy.

Modern Citizen, for example, takes a hybrid approach to returns, allowing customers to enjoyfree exchanges and returns for store credit — but an actual refund with the original payment method requires a $5 processing fee.

How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (2)

What Items Can’t Be Returned?

Let your customers know ahead of time what products can’t be returned. Some examples of these products include:

  • Products with a broken hygiene seal, such as underwear or swimwear
  • Personal single-use items like beauty products, cosmetics, and toiletries
  • Perishable products such as food
  • Personalized products with a name or other information
  • Products specifically made to order
  • Faulty items that are not returned in their original packaging
  • Any item labeled “as is” or “final sale”

What Your Return Policy Needs to Include

To run a successful e-commerce business, you need a return policy that caters to the customer and protects your business from fraudulent returns. In addition, the policy must be clear and enforced consistently.

Your return policy needs to include the following:

  1. The time frame for returns (return window)
  2. The acceptable conditions for returns (defined by business)
  3. Steps for a customer to follow (return requirements)

Time Frame

It’s important to let your customers know how long they have to return a product. In general, a 15- to 30-day return policy is standard. However, some businesses opt for 90 days, and still others — like L.L.Bean — are willing to accept a return 365 days later, as long as you have the purchase receipt.

How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (3)

Open-ended return periods are not always beneficial for an online business. Failure to disclose a time frame for returns may result in customers trying to ship back items months or even years after purchase.

Be aware that items with gift receipts are often expected to have longer return windows. For example, if you received a gift from Barnes & Noble that included a gift receipt, you have 60 days to make a return for store credit instead of the regular 30-day return window.

How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (4)

Acceptable Conditions

When structuring your company’s return policy, define the condition a product must be in before a return will be processed. If you fail to include this information, customers may attempt to return merchandise in conditions too poor to be resold.

For example, Barnes & Noble requires that items be returned in their perfect original condition within their unopened shrink-wrapped packaging.

How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (5)

Apple’s return policy requires returned items to have all the accessories, packaging, documentation, and the purchase or gift receipt.

How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (6)

Steps for Returns

You must let your customers know the requirements that must be met before a return will be processed.

Such requirements may consist of:

  • Having the purchase receipt
  • Keeping purchase tags on the item
  • Returning the item in its original packaging
  • Acquiring an authorization number if needed
  • Using the correct shipping address
  • Including photos or other forms of authentication if needed

Refunds, Exchanges, or In-Store Credit

Return policies are often coupled with refund and exchange policies, all of which need to be detailed and transparent.

Many customers will expect a full refund, whereas others may accept an exchange or in-store credit. Before they return a product, a customer will likely want to know what method you will use to compensate them and how long it will take for the funds to reappear in their account.

Your business can decide to offer exchanges or store credit for certain types of returns. However, in most circumstances, customers will expect a full refund if the returned merchandise meets the requirements of the return policy.

What to Avoid in a Return Policy

Your return policy should never be overly technical. Covering every detail in a direct and informative way is important. But, on the other hand, you should avoid a convoluted return policy using poor formatting and specialized language at all costs.

It’s also best to avoid ambiguities or confusion when discussing the limitations of your return policy. This is especially critical regarding the restrictions on items available for return.

Tips for Writing a Good Return Policy

Make It Easy to Read and Understand

Return policies need to be presented in a clear and straightforward manner, from the wording you use to a simplified font to how the policy is formatted.

Studies show that most people skim headlines and read bullets. Keep this in mind when you structure your policy and guide your customers to the most critical information right upfront.

The language you use to explain your return policy must prevent potential misunderstandings. It’s not enough to provide extended details regarding returns. It’s best to keep the policy as simple as possible, usually no more than three steps for the customer to follow.

As you’re writing your policy, it’s a good exercise to ask yourself this:

If I were a customer, how would I feel about this policy? Would I appreciate the free return shipping or resent the company for offering only store credit?

Avoid Copying and Pasting

All businesses are not the same. Pasting what works for someone else can lead to an atrocious, muddled policy that will turn shoppers off.

Set Clear Guidelines and Expectations

Customers should expect prompt service along with updates regarding receipt and any next steps required. They will tend to feel anxious if they return items and don’t hear any updates for days or even weeks, and they may wonder whether the item was even received.

Make it clear that customers can count on your business to keep to the timeline presented.

Match Your Brand’s Voice

If your website is playful and filled with color and graphics, your return policy should match that enthusiasm. Use graphs and charts to guide your customers as you inform them about their returns.

Similarly, if you are a relatively businesslike brand, you’ll want to write a return policy that matches that voice.

In terms of branding, if your business has a website and an app and is present on social media platforms, see what you can do to make your return policy fluid with your brand’s voice. For example, perhaps customers can start a return on a mobile app and complete it on a desktop computer. Perhaps your updates can be in the form of text messages that match your style and brand.

Avoid Harsh Language

There’s no need to be rude or defiant toward customers. Instead, relay your policies firmly without harsh language or rude comparisons.

Be Honest and Actionable

Always present the truth in your advertising and your return policies. Be honest about what you can do for your customers and give them an avenue to file grievances or complaints. This will make your customers feel heard and position your company as a business that takes its customers seriously and takes action on their behalf when necessary.

Generate Goodwill

Consider the value a good return policy could add to your business. For example, an extended return window during the holidays could serve as an effective marketing tool and increase the number of new and returning customers.

Longer return windows do not necessarily lead to an increase in returns. Instead, they are often an indicator of just how flexible your business will be if the customer is dissatisfied with a product for whatever reason.

Creating a longer time frame for the customer’s benefit will instantly position you as a trustworthy company that can be counted on to stand by its products and values its customers.

Make It Easy to Find

Don’t leave your customers guessing where to go to initiate a return. Instead, use a visible action button or provide links that are prominent and easy to navigate.

Use bold fonts or a bright, eye-catching color to attract customers to the return area of your site. Particularly during the holiday season, customers may be persuaded to use your site if your return policy is relatively easy to find.

Action buttons that lead the customer to your return policy are also helpful.

Where to Display Your Return Policy

Online Businesses

It’s always a good idea to feature your return policy on every page of your website.

Customers will typically expect to find the return policy in the footer of your website along with links to other policies regarding privacy, data, and terms of use. The return policy should be readily accessible through those links and should preferably allow customers to jump right into the return process.

You should note that return policies are often associated with shipping policies, no refund policies, all sales are final policies and money back guarantees. If you have these policies in place, you should link to your return policy from them.

Brick-and-mortar Businesses

A brick-and-mortar business should display its policy on the wall behind the register, in other conspicuous locations in the store, or on the back of the purchase receipt. It is up to each individual business to decide how they wish to structure their return policy.

Wrapping Up

An effective return policy should be clear, direct, and easily understood. It should specify the return window, the required condition of returned items, and the specific steps that must be followed to obtain a refund.

How To Write a Return Policy: The Basics & Requirements (7)

More about the author

Written by Masha Komnenic CIPP/E, CIPM, CIPT, FIP

Masha is an Information Security and Data Privacy Specialist and a Certified Data Protection Officer. She has been a Data Protection Officer for the past six years, helping small and medium-sized enterprises achieve legal compliance. She has also been a privacy compliance mentor to many international business accelerators. She specializes... More about the author


What is your return policy example? ›

Thank you for your purchase. We hope you are happy with your purchase. However, if you are not completely satisfied with your purchase for any reason, you may return it to us for [a full refund], [store credit], or [an exchange].

What is return policy summary? ›

A return and exchange policy is a set of rules a retailer creates to manage how customers return and exchange unwanted merchandise they've purchased. These policies tell customers what items can be returned and for what reasons, as well as the timeframe over which returns are accepted.

What is a good sentence for return? ›

Example Sentences

Verb We waited for you to return. She is returning home tomorrow.

How do I write a return policy for a small business? ›

Small business return policy tips
  1. Be consistent with your policy. ...
  2. Post your policy in clear view of customers and employees. ...
  3. Explain your policy to the customer when they make a purchase. ...
  4. Train employees so they know how to handle returns. ...
  5. Check out your competitors so you know what their return policies look like.
Nov 4, 2022

What is a standard return policy? ›

The policy provides an up-front guarantee of customer satisfaction. If a product does not meet the customer's expectations or if it is defective, the consumer has confidence that he can return the product for a replacement product, a refund or a store credit.

What is customer return policy? ›

What is a return policy? Return policies are the rules that define how customers can return or exchange unwanted items they purchased. Retailers can create a return policy to inform customers what goods can be returned and for what reasons, as well as the time frame over which they accept the returns.

What do you say when a customer wants a refund example? ›

I understand how it can be frustrating [to purchase a product/ sign up for a service] and not have it meet your expectations, so hopefully, we can get this sorted out for you. If not, I'll be happy to issue you a refund. Please let me know how you'd like to proceed.

Why is a good return policy important? ›

A concise and clear return policy gives consumers a feeling of security; that what they are buying is guaranteed to be what it is represented to be. If a retailer doesn't give this guarantee, then consumers often become suspicious and avoid buying the product.

How long is a return policy? ›

Every returns policy needs to be at least 14 days. Most people expect a policy of at least 30 days – and they're checking before they buy. With a 30-day policy, the average return takes only 12 days. Longer returns windows can lead to longer returns – but only slightly!

What is an example of no return policy? ›

For example, if you own a clothing store and sell swimwear or undergarments, you might have a no-return or exchange policy for those items to protect the health and safety of your customers. The same can be said for makeup, medicines, bath items, personalized or engraved goods, or other beauty-related products.

What is return and examples? ›

Definition: Return, also called return on investment, is the amount of money you receive from an investment. You can think of it this way. For every dollar you put into an investment, the investments earns two dollars. This money that the investment earns is considered your return.

What is return statement in simple words? ›

A return statement ends the execution of a function, and returns control to the calling function. Execution resumes in the calling function at the point immediately following the call. A return statement can return a value to the calling function. For more information, see Return type.

What are the three parts of return management? ›

Three pillars support returns management processes: speed, visibility, and control.

What is a good sentence to write? ›

A good sentence is a complete sentence.

This element of sentence structure can stand on its own, expressing an idea without the need for additional information. For example: “Parents worry about their children.” This sentence is complete, and conveys a clear idea.

How do you write a good sentence example? ›

Tips to enhance clarity while writing sentences
  • Use relevant examples. Examples make things crystal clear for your reader. ...
  • Avoid modifiers. Modifiers add a sliding scale to your claims. ...
  • Avoid passive voice like the plague. ...
  • Ensure it has a good flow. ...
  • Split long sentences.
Oct 18, 2022

What should a refund policy look like? ›

(Store Name) Refund Policy. Thank you for shopping at (Store Name)! We offer refund and/or exchange within the first 30 days of your purchase, if 30 days have passed since your purchase, you will not be offered a refund and/or exchange of any kind. Your item must be unused and in the same condition that you received it ...

What is return policy and procedure? ›

A return and exchange policy is a set of rules a retailer creates to manage how customers return and exchange unwanted merchandise they've purchased. These policies tell customers what items can be returned and for what reasons, as well as the timeframe over which returns are accepted.

What is all the best return policy? ›

WHAT IS YOUR RETURN POLICY? All merchandise is 100% guaranteed. Please return any item from your in-store or online purchase within 60 days to your preferred store location for a refund or exchange. Returns with no account (purchased as a guest user) and returns received after 60 days will receive store credit.

What is a reasonable return? ›

Reasonable return means, as a guide for Board decision-making, absent proof that the person has tried to sell that property “as is” and no one will buy it unless the proposed construction can occur, or that the property cannot be used for any other legal purpose under the zoning ordinance without a variance.

Are return policies required? ›

Even though there are no federal laws that require a Return and Refund Policy, there are some state laws which require businesses to have one in certain circumstances. For example, some states require you to have a Privacy Policy if you do not issue refunds.

What is easy return policy? ›

Today, an “easy” return means the customer knows an item can be returned if it's in good condition and has been sent or brought back within a reasonable timeframe.

How do I write a return letter? ›

Include the details about the product such as was purchased, when and at what price. Mention why you returned the item. Mention the relevant information of the transactions such as the date and place of delivery. Do not include unnecessary information in the letter.

How do you make a customer return? ›

7 ways to attract returning customers
  1. Make customer service a priority. ...
  2. Incentivize returning customers with loyalty programs for small businesses. ...
  3. Highlight positive customer experiences. ...
  4. Vary product offerings to keep customers' experience new and fresh. ...
  5. Share helpful insights via social media.
Oct 2, 2019

What is an example no refund policy sample? ›

All sales are final, and the Company does not offer any money-back guarantees. You recognize and agree that you shall not be entitled to a refund for any purchase under any circumstances. No Warranties THE COMPANY MAKES NO WARRANTIES REGARDING THE PERFORMANCE OR OPERATION OF THIS WEBSITE.

What is a typical required rate of return? ›

For example, it could range between 3% and 9%, based on factors such as business risk, liquidity risk, and financial risk. Or, you can derive it from historical yearly market returns. For illustrative purposes, we'll use 6% rather than any of the extreme values.

What is a realistic return? ›

Real return is what is earned on an investment after accounting for taxes and inflation. Real returns are lower than nominal returns, which do not subtract taxes and inflation.

What is an average required rate of return? ›

The required rate of return (hurdle rate) is the minimum return that an investor is expecting to receive for their investment. Essentially, the required rate is the minimum acceptable compensation for the investment's level of risk. The required rate of return is a key concept in corporate finance and equity valuation.

What is basic no return policy? ›

What is a No Return, No Refund Policy? A No Return, No Refund Policy is simply a policy where customers are informed that they are not allowed to return or get refunds for products they have purchased. Many businesses choose to institute a No Return, No Refund Policy to save themselves time and money.

What is a basic no refund policy? ›

A no refund policy informs your customers that all sales are final, and they shouldn't expect a monetary refund or replacement item even if they're unsatisfied with their purchase.

How do you tell a customer they are not eligible for a refund? ›

Start by acknowledging the refund request and your steps in determining if it was valid. Then explain your decision to deny the refund. Use active language like, "I looked into your situation and our refund policy does not allow one in this case." Consider indicating that you spoke to a manager to add to the authority.

What is the general purpose of the return statement? ›

A return statement ends the execution of a function, and returns control to the calling function. Execution resumes in the calling function at the point immediately following the call. A return statement can return a value to the calling function. For more information, see Return type.

What is the best reason to return an item? ›

Why Do Customers Return Their Purchases? The most common causes of purchase returns are unmet expectations, damaged or defective products, and incorrect fit. Any of these issues can be caused by failures on the merchant's part or by events the merchant had no control over.

What are the acceptable reasons for a return refund request? ›

Here are 5 common examples, and how to help avoid them.
  • The customer bought the wrong item or changed their mind once they received it. ...
  • The merchant shipped the wrong item. ...
  • Purchase arrived too late or the customer doesn't need it anymore. ...
  • "Wardrobing." ...
  • The product was damaged or defective. ...
  • Conclusion.


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