How to get a refund with a faded or lost receipt

So much of Australian consumer law seems to depend on having proof of purchase. But what can you do when

So much of Australian consumer law seems to depend on having proof of purchase. But what can you do when that proof has vanished like invisible ink?

It seems ridiculous that a receipt for something with a multi-year warranty could be printed with paper and ink so cheap it will be unreadable by the time you need it.

Unfortunately, that’s the reality. While the law says every retailer must be able to provide proof of purchase, there is no law about how long that record needs to be legible. As a consumer, it’s hard not to worry.

Thankfully, a faded receipt is not necessarily the end. Even a lost receipt can be worked around.

What can I do if I can’t supply a legible receipt?

According to the ever-reliable Choice, there are a number of other ways you can provide proof of purchase, including:

  • A bank or credit card statement
  • A hand-written version of the same records
  • A photograph or photocopy of the original receipt (this is the single best way to work around the problem, as it can be done in seconds with a smartphone or tablet)
  • A loyalty card record (if you used Fly Buys or Woolworths Rewards, for example, they should have a transaction record on file)
  • A confirmation number (particularly useful for internet or online transactions)
  • Lay-by agreement records

If your receipt has faded, chances are you won’t be the first to have this problem, so your request may already be a familiar one with the staff member. Many retailers will be able to reprint the original receipt if given enough information about the date, time and nature of the purchase.

Can I make the receipt more legible?

Here’s one great tip, in some cases, can help darken faded receipt text:

  • Get a hairdryer.
  • Place the receipt on a flat surface with a paperweight.
  • Hold the dryer at arm’s length and blast it on the highest heat setting.

If this makes the writing more legible, immediately photograph or scan the document.

How can I prevent faded receipts?

To find out if you have a thermal receipt (the type prone to fade fast), Choice suggests simply scratching a blank section with your fingernail to see if it leaves a black mark.

If so, it’s time to take action. Take a photo of the receipt immediately – even a quick, legible phone snap. 

There are two key ways to slow the fading process, though neither is guaranteed:

  • Keep it away from sunlight or heat.
  • Avoid storing it in plastic sleeves.

Another great tip is to download the ACCC Shopper app for your phone or tablet, which will help you photograph and keep full long-term records of your receipts.

What can I do if a retailer still refuses to honour the purchase?

If you feel the retailer has been provided with enough information but they are still refusing to help, send a complaint to the ACCC with your original (faded) receipt attached. Click here to learn more.

Have you ever had trouble with a lost or faded receipt? Were you still able to get a refund?