Upload & Sell: Off
| p.1 #8 · Should the big retailers start charging restocking fees? |
The closest thing I can find with a quick web search is this exchange between Sony's lawyers and the FTC, asking for clarification and advocating their own legal reasoning about return restocking. So, it's clearly a delicate and subtle area of regulation on exactly where the line is drawn between legally acceptable or not restocking practices (with likely different specific criteria for sweaters and cameras).
Sony clearly wants the most generous interpretation of the law for re-stocking their returned electronics. Apparently, existing case law makes a (vaguely defined) distinction between equipment that has been "used" (which cannot be re-sold as new), or merely "inspected" (which can be re-stocked). Sony wants to define this distinction for electronic items such that an item has been "used" if it was ever switched on, but merely "inspected" if it was unboxed for viewing without being switched on.
The FTC "Staff Advisory Opinion" generally concurs, with important caveats that the return is really in "like new" condition:
“As an initial matter, by limiting its program to products that have never been turned on, it appears that Sony would be reselling products that fall within the "inspected but not used" category referenced in the 1969 Enforcement Policy. However, the analysis does not end there. The products, as a result of prior purchase, may carry defects upon return. For example, a returned product may never have been turned on, but nonetheless may be damaged or missing requisite parts and inserts. Sony's program appears comprehensive enough to avoid such defects and protect consumers from injury, thereby likely rendering the fact of...Show more →
Presumably, retailers that go further than Sony, by re-selling "new" items that may have been turned on or are damaged/missing parts, fall afoul of consumer protection laws. If, like the original poster, you can tell the item you bought isn't new ("the fact of prior purchase" is not "rendered immaterial"), then you have a valid (and reportable to the FTC) complaint against the retailer.