In developed countries it is not uncommon for customers to return products they have purchased for a refund. Sometimes it’s because the product wasn’t suitable whilst other times the customer just changed their mind (clothes are a good example of this). Whatever the reason, if you have proof of your original purchase you can return the product for either a refund.
The rules aren’t the same online, particularly with digital products. Many stores offer 100% money back guarantees on their products whilst others have a zero tolerance rule on refunds and will not give you your money back in any circumstances once you click the buy buttons. Some sellers take this policy as digital products can’t be taken back i.e. once a customer has purchased a theme, plugin or PDF, they can’t exactly take the product back from them if the customer changes their mind about the product.
I can understand why some sellers would adopt a no-refund policy if a large percentage of customers asked for refunds frequently. However, what if the customer has a legitimate reason for asking for a refund? Sellers who offer a no quibble 100% refund guarantee should bee applauded though it is perhaps a lot to ask everyone who sells digital products to give refunds to customers simply because their changed their mind.
My Experiences With Getting Refunds In 2012
I’ve recently had some bad experiences with refunds and it has opened my eyes to how poor the after sales support is from those who sell WordPress related products and services.
For example, I came across a simple social media widget plugin on CodeCanyon a month or so ago and contacted the developer to ask for access to a test area so that I could review the plugin fully (as social media plugin reviews have proved to be very popular here). He did not want to provide this so I took the plunge and purchased the plugin myself for $6 so that I could do a full review for WP Mods readers.
Unfortunately, the plugin didn’t work. It generated lots of errors and made my test area crash, despite me testing the plugin with no other plugins installed and testing it with several popular WordPress themes. The developer was very un-supportive and advised that it worked on his website so it must be something I did wrong.
I get really frustrated when developers refuse to acknowledge problems with their products and automatically place the blame on you for their products working. It was clear the plugin didn’t work therefore I contacted Envato for a refund. They advised that:
Thank you for your message to Envato Support. Due to the nature of our product, we can’t swap and don’t provide credits for an item unless your request falls into one of the following categories:
* The files are malfunctioning or corrupt.
* The files are not what the item description claims.
We would be happy to proceed with your refund request if you feel that your item fits one of the above criteria.
Here’s what we will need from you:
Please explain in detail how it is malfunctioning, corrupt, or not as described. We will then ask one of our reviewers to look over the file, and if we find you are correct we will be more than happy to credit your account for the cost of the item. This process also allows us to identify and fix any problems the file/description may have.
Please also note:
We do not issue refunds for insufficient item support from an author. Although we encourage it, theme authors aren’t required to provide support of any kind.
We do not issue PayPal refunds. For more information, please read the following:
http://wiki.envato.com/support/legal-terms/legal-membership-terms-and-conditions/ | 13. Payments from Member Ledger
Also, if by chance you are having issues with a WordPress theme installation, please see the following URL for video and text instructions – http://wiki.envato.com/buying/support-buying/solving-broken-theme-issues/
What was frustrating about this reply was that Envato clearly hadn’t read my original email as that clearly stated what was wrong with the plugin and why it wasn’t working. If they didn’t believe what I was claiming, all they had to do was check the comments for the plugin and they would have seen several other unhappy customers reporting the same issues as me.
I wasn’t particularly bothered about the money as the plugin only cost $6 though if I am purchasing a digital product I at least want some assurance that I will get my money back if the product doesn’t work. In the end, they refunded my money, though I was disappointed that I had to send a few emails in order to get it.
My experience with Magazine3 was much worse. I had purchased their WP Mods to use on WP Mods. Within 10 minutes of purchasing the theme I had emailed them for a refund. The options panel was problematic, it was riddled with design issues and the templates were full of coding errors. In short, the theme was a mess and wasn’t fit for purchase.
They apologised, promised to make things better and refused to give me a refund. I spent about 5 full days fixing all the problems that came with the design but it still didn’t work 100% correctly. Against my own better judgement I launched it on WP Mods as updates and improvements were promised. Support was initially great after purchasing but after a week or so they stopped replying to my support queries. My last few emails about problems were simply never answered. Around 5-6 weeks later they released an update that apparently fixed all of the themes problems. It didn’t. It still had lots of little bugs and the templates were a mess with lots of references to classes that weren’t in the theme stylesheet and lots of classes in the stylesheet that were never used in the templates.
At this point I reiterated my disappointment the theme and how it was still very buggy. I had wasted a lot of my time trying to fix the problems the theme had but had reached the point where I no longer wanted to waste any more of my time. I therefore asked for a refund.
As expected, they refused to give me a refund and pointed to the fact that I had the theme was being used on WP Mods and that it had been 5 or so weeks since I purchased the theme. They were right – it had been 5 weeks since I had purchased the design and at the time was used on my site. They seemed to forget the fact that I had asked for a refund immediately after purchasing and realising how buggy the theme was and they refused, that they had stopped responding to my support queries (and other members) and that the theme was still filled with lots of bugs.
Should You Get A Refund For A Digital Product?
I think it’s important to try and see both sides when looking at an issue such as refunds. I love the idea of offering customers 100% money back guarantees that refund the customers money if they aren’t happy, though I understand that a few bad apples can spoil it for everyone and ask for a refund just because they want to try and get the product for free.
Perhaps refunds should always be at the discretion of the seller and looked at individually. I’m of the belief that if the product isn’t working correctly, the customer should get a refund if they want it. For example, if a customer buys a WordPress theme that was specifically made for blogging, I don’t think they should automatically get a full refund just because the design doesn’t natively support video galleries. However, if the theme is buggy and has a lot of problems, the customer should get a refund if they want it (or wait for the problems to be fixed).
It’s worth noting that bad support and a no-refund policy don’t go hand in hand. I recently purchased a theme membership from Theme Junkie and noticed in the forums that they don’t give refunds. I had a few problems with some of the designs but the support I received was top notch.
What’s your view on refunds for digital products? Should you get the same rights as buying a physical product from a store?
Thanks for reading :)