December 19, 2018
We all want to find the perfect gift for everyone on our Christmas list. Getting caught up in the frenzy of yuletide shopping can be all too easy, with so many businesses going overboard trying to convince us to part with our hard-earned dollars, and some offering deals that seem too good to be true. Knowing and understanding our rights as consumers can help to make Christmas shopping a little less stressful.
In this blog post, we explore the legal rights that we as consumers have in relation to the quality of goods purchased, the return and refund of goods as well as the hidden charges which we should be mindful of.
Goods Must Be “Of Merchantable Quality”
Where merchants sell goods in the course of their business, there is an implied condition that the goods must be “of merchantable quality”. This means that the goods must be fit (or durable) for the purpose for which they are bought. Factors such as the description and price of the goods will usually influence whether the goods are viewed as fit for their purpose. For example, a laptop computer must power on and properly function and a motor vehicle must not consistently stall. However, merchants will not be responsible for defects that are specifically drawn to the consumers’ attention before the purchase, or ought to have been noticed on examination of the goods.
If consumers represent to merchants, whether expressly or impliedly, the purpose for which the goods are being bought, there is an implied condition that the goods will be reasonably fit for that purpose regardless of whether this purpose is a common purpose or not. For example, if a consumer indicates to the merchant that he intends to go scuba diving and needs a watch for the trip, any watch sold to the consumer will be deemed to include an implied condition that it is waterproof and otherwise suitable for scuba diving, regardless if the watch performs its normal purpose of telling time.
Returns and Refunds
Some merchants may try to impose a blanket “no refund” policy. This is illegal and unenforceable. If goods are not of merchantable quality or not reasonably fit for purpose, then consumers have every right to reject them and request a full refund, within a reasonable time.
In addition to the policies themselves being illegal, it is also illegal to display notices such as “No Refund”, “No Exchange” or even “No Refund on Sale Items”.
Some merchants may attempt to charge “re-stocking” or “banking” fees when processing refunds. However, once a consumer has valid grounds for returning the goods, they are entitled to the full amount paid, as in law the sale is treated as though it never happened.
No Hidden Charges
Merchants are required to state the Value Added Tax (“VAT”) that will be levied on goods. Where goods are advertised, displayed or quoted at a price which is exclusive of VAT, the price must be accompanied by an indication of the tax to be applied to the price of the goods in money terms (that is, in dollars ($) and cents (¢) and not as a percentage (%) and in figures or letters of the same size and prominence as the price of the goods.
Consumer contracts must also include all applicable terms and conditions, representations, warranties or guarantees under which the goods are to be supplied, including those which relate to the costs to be borne by consumers if the goods are returned for servicing or inspection. This ensures that consumers are not blindsided by additional costs which they were not made privy to at the time of purchase.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year and with all the mounting pressures of finding the perfect gifts, we can feel at ease knowing that as consumers we have legal rights. Enforcing our rights can give us a little extra comfort and can prevent us from being left out of pocket and subject to unfair merchant practices.
’Tis the Season to be jolly! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ahead to all shopaholics!
Miguel Vasquez & Jeanelle Pran
September 12, 2018
A message purporting to be a statement from our Firm on the ability – or rather the inability – of male police officers to arrest female citizens at night is being circulated via email and WhatsApp. This message asserts that “it is a procedural issue that a woman can be arrested between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. only if she is arrested by a woman officer and taken to an all-women police station. If she is arrested by a male officer, it has to be proven that a woman officer was on duty at the time of arrest.”
This message did not originate from our Firm. Unfortunately, our name came to be falsely associated with this message approximately 10 years ago when it was being circulated via email. Regrettably, despite our efforts to disown the message, it has reappeared and is now being circulated via WhatsApp.
Aside from the concern that our Firm has been falsely associated with advice that we have not given, it is doubly troubling that the advice itself is wrong.
Under the Police Service Act of Trinidad and Tobago there are no limitations on a police officer’s exercise of his or her power of arrest along the lines asserted in the fake message, whether based on the gender of the arresting officer or that of the alleged offender, nor is there any such limitation with respect to the time of day when the officer may make an arrest.
The message is fake news. Its association with our Firm is deeply regretted.