How to get a refund of Office 365

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Getting a refund on an Office 365 plan isn’t easy but can be possible depending on the reason for cancellation and your local consumer laws.

There’s a lot of misleading or out-of-date information on the web, including details from Microsoft itself.  Here’s the hard information we’ve been able to find.

A lot depends on:

  • Who you purchased from? Microsoft direct or a third party.
    • Refund/returns go through the company/store you bought from.
    • Only ask Microsoft for a refund if you bought directly from them.
  • Is it a one-time purchase or an Office 365 annual plan?
  • How long since the purchase?
  • How long since installation/activation?
  • Why do you want a refund? Is the software not working?  Or have you decided not to use it anymore.
  • What consumer protection or fair trading local laws apply to your purchase.

Office 365 refunds

Microsoft’s policy for Office 365 refunds is stated here.

” Digital goods like apps, games, add-on content, subscriptions, movies, TV shows, and books are not returnable unless the offer or applicable law states that you’re eligible for a refund.

Most consumer law makes NO distinction between physical or digital goods. Check your local law to be sure of your rights.

Microsoft’s rules vs the law

Microsoft policies about cancelling sales and refunds are quite strict.  Like a lot of companies and stores, they point to those ‘Terms and Conditions’ (T&C’s) and say all customers are bound to comply. That’s NOT true.

There are consumer protection or fair-trading laws In most countries which always apply and cannot be overridden by a company (or signed away by the consumer).  Buried down in most T&C’s is an acknowledgement that the terms can’t replace consumer rights.

Checking consumer laws doesn’t require a law degree. Many governments have web sites that explain your rights as customers. In some countries there are both national and regional consumer laws

If a staffer tells you something isn’t possible because of company policy, politely but firmly remind them that corporate rules don’t override the law.

Why cancelling or refunding?

The reason for cancellation and wanting a refund is important.

If you’ve had trouble installing Microsoft software, remember that all their wares come with 30 days of free installation support. Take advantage of that.

Is your purchase not what you wanted?  Maybe it’s modern Office not compatible with your version of Windows?

If so, you should be able to get a refund from the place of purchase.  This is a situation where consumer laws can be useful because there’s often a provision for refunds when the product isn’t suitable or ‘fit for purpose’.

If you’ve chosen the wrong product (maybe Windows vs Mac or one-time vs subscription) and NOT activated the product, you should be able to arrange an exchange.

With all the Office options out there, it’s understandable that people get confused about the newer subscription option and the more familiar one-time or perpetual licence choice.

Sometimes stores will insist on giving you a voucher or credit for future purchases.  That’s OK if you know you’ll fully use that credit soon. Check local laws because often they’ll require stores to refund in the same way you paid (cash, credit card etc.). Store credit is an option you can choose to accept, but don’t have to.

What does Microsoft say?

The only thing that matters is Microsoft’s formal Terms and Conditions plus the law where you bought the Microsoft product. Statements from Microsoft staff, are sometimes wrong and don’t count.

Microsoft’s refund policy is buried in their Services Agreement, the Payment Terms section.

Microsoft’s official Refund Policy.

Here’s the Refund Policy text broken down into a more readable form with our comments.

Unless otherwise provided by law or by a particular Service offer, all purchases are final and non-refundable.

The first part is important, know your rights under local law. Your purchase might not be as ‘final’ or ‘non-refundable’ as Microsoft pretends.

If you believe that Microsoft has charged you in error, you must contact us within 90 days of such charge.

If your Office 365 plan has been renewed against your wishes, keep this in mind. Complain right away if that happens. Office-Watch.com has long recommended against automatic renewal of Office 365 plans.

No refunds will be given for any charges more than 90 days old.

Again, depending on local law,  but 90 days should be enough time.

We reserve the right to issue refunds or credits at our sole discretion.

FALSE.  Local consumer laws override any Microsoft rules and their ‘sole discretion’  The company cannot legally refuse a refund if the customer has a lawful request.

If we issue a refund or credit, we are under no obligation to issue the same or similar refund in the future.

Microsoft may decide to give a refund to retain customer goodwill and avoid a public complaint. This sentence means ‘ex-gratia’ or goodwill refunds aren’t a precedent for the future.

This refund policy does not affect any statutory rights that may apply.

TRUE but it’s up to you.  Know your consumer rights, not just for dealing with Microsoft but any other retailer.

Kudos to Microsoft for repeatedly making reference to local laws and statutory rights.  Many similar T&C’s either hide or skip those references.

But Microsoft also says ….

The top ranked result for ‘Office 365 refund’ on Google is wrong and not from Microsoft.  And it doesn’t match Microsoft stated rules elsewhere.

Here’s the Microsoft forum quote from June 2016:

“You can also cancel your Office 365 subscription and receive a pro-rated refund of any unused remaining days between the date of cancellation and the date that your Office 365 subscription ends.”

If you’re trying to get a refund of an unused Office 365 plan, it’s worth quoting this paragraph. For over two years the information hasn’t been removed or corrected by Microsoft.

That statement comes from a “Microsoft contingent staff, Moderator ” which sounds official but it’s not.  According to Microsoft, ‘Contingent Staff’ are not Microsoft employees and don’t speak for the company.

Microsoft Contingent Staff : “They are not Microsoft Employees and do not speak for or officially represent Microsoft. The company they work for should be listed in the “I work at” field in their profile.”

Cancel Office 365 auto renewal

When customers ask about Office 365 refunds, a common Microsoft response is to talk about cancelling Office 365 automatic renewal.

That’s “closing the gate after the horse has bolted” and might help for the future but doesn’t help with the immediate problem.


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