21 Dec BUYER BEWARE – SHOP SAFELY THIS CHRISTMAS
We all want to find the perfect gift for everyone on our Christmas list. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the frenzy of yuletide shopping, 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.
Goods Must Be “Of Merchantable Quality”
Where businesses 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 turn on and properly function and a motor vehicle must not consistently shut down. 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 an examination of the goods – such as in ‘scratch and dent’ sales.
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 motor vehicle was purchased to be used for hire as a taxi, but it is riddled with defects to the extent that the consumer has rarely been able to drive it.
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.
Sometimes a good deal is just too good to be true. Some retailers try to sell counterfeit or fake goods for what seem like reasonable prices. These are goods which are manufactured with packaging or labelling which resembles genuine goods and are sold without the permission of the brand owner.
Many counterfeit retail items such as jewellery, shoes, school bags, clothing, footwear, cosmetics, handbags, watches, medicines, car parts, consumer electronics and wine are sold to consumers. These are not only illegal but in some instances can be harmful and dangerous to the unsuspecting consumer. So it is worth paying close attention to both the prices of items as well as if they are actually a true item or just a cheap knock off of poor quality.
Disclaimer: This Document Provides General Guidance Only And Nothing In This Document Constitutes Legal Advice. Should You Require Specific Assistance, Please Contact Your Attorney-At-Law.
This Article was co-authored by Fanta Punch, Miguel Vasquez and Jeanelle Pran, attorneys at M. Hamel-Smith & Co. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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