Ask Consumer Ed: Store charging restocking fee on undelivered merchandise

Dear Consumer Ed:

I ordered a sofa from an online furniture company. The sofa was supposedly shipped, but we never received it. The company does not know where it is and cannot provide any tracking information. They have agreed to cancel this order and refund our money, but they want to charge a restocking fee. Can they do that?

Consumer Ed says:

In Georgia, companies are allowed to set their own policies regarding refunds and exchanges, including those related to “restocking fees”. Restocking fees have become increasingly common in our online marketplace and are typically charged to recoup various costs associated with a product return, such as shipping costs and repacking costs. They may also be charged to compensate a company for the reduced selling price that they may charge other customers for a returned product. But, as with any material term, the company must clearly and conspicuously disclose the existence of these charges to the customer before the purchase becomes final.

However, while the collection of these fees is permissible, there may be circumstances where a company should not enforce such a fee, or where charging it would be illegal. Although state laws vary, restocking fees are generally unfair or deceptive if:  they are being charged in connection with the return of defective merchandise; they are being charged because the company delivered the wrong merchandise; they are being charged because the company failed to deliver the merchandise within the promised time period; they exceed 50% of the purchase price of the merchandise; or the restocking fees are not adequately disclosed to the customer. In brief, when the company makes the mistake, they should not pass the cost of the mistake onto the customer.

Since, in your case, the company failed to deliver the sofa to you at all – let alone within the promised time period – you likely should not be responsible for a restocking fee.  In a situation where the company may be charging unfair restocking fees, there are several options.  First, if the fee was charged to your credit card you can try to dispute the charge with your credit card company.  Second, you could submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau to see if they can help mediate the situation between you and the company.  Finally, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov or to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division at consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600.

***The best way to protect yourself from consumer problems is to become an educated consumer. That means knowing your rights and obligations under the law, how to find a reputable business and how to spot a scam. Do you have a question concerning a consumer-related issue? Want to know whether a certain practice by a business is legitimate? Wondering what your rights are?

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed. 

Remember…Consumer Ed does not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.

What’s Happening in Georgia State Parks

May 2022 Program Calendar

Find many more monthly happenings on GaStateParks.org.


Hungry, Hungry Herps — Saturdays in May, 11 a.m., Crooked River State Park, St. Marys

Wine and Roses — Thursdays in May, 5 p.m., Smithgall Woods State Park, Helen

Crime and Punishment Hikes – Saturdays in May, Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, Dahlonega

ADA-Accessible Kayak Launch Grand Opening – May 7, 12 p.m., Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge

Adventure Race – May 7, 10 a.m., Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston

Mother’s Day Hike – May 8, 11 a.m., Black Rock Mountain State Park, Mountain City

Mother’s Day Mill Tours – May 8, 1 and 3 p.m., Sweetwater Creek State Park, Lithia Springs

Backyard Birding – May 13, 11 a.m., Skidaway Island State Park, Savannah

Animal Babies Bingo — May 13, 6 p.m., F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain

National Archery Day Celebration Class — May 14, 1 p.m., A.H. Stephens State Park, Crawfordville

Civil War Soldier’s Life – May 14, 10 a.m., Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site, Dallas

Woodstork Hike — May 15 and 27, Fort McAllister State Park, Richmond Hill

Twilight Kayak Tour — May 21, 6:30 p.m., Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge

Art in the Park — May 21, 10 a.m., Sweetwater Creek State Park, Lithia Springs

Sapelo Island Bike Tour — May 26, 8:30 a.m., Reynolds Mansion, Sapelo Island

Honoring Memorial Day at Georgia’s Historical Sites

Honor those who fought for our country by visiting one of Georgia’s historic sites this holiday.

Fort King George in Darien will offer Revolutionary War soldier life demonstrations on Monday, May 30.

Pickett’s Mill Battlefield in Dallas will host a wreath-laying ceremony and service on Saturday, May 28, remembering everyone who perished during the Civil War.

Georgia Veterans State Park in Cordele offers a military museum and outdoor exhibits, including a B-29A Superfortress, tanks and helicopter.

Find more Memorial Day Weekend programs on GaStateParks.org.