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Shopping at Christmas Time - 10 tips and traps

It is that time of year again, retailers are fighting to get their hands on your hard earned cash. It is very important that despite the Christmas rush, you don’t forget your rights as a consumer. In Australia we have Consumer Law which protects us from dodgy deals and ‘special’ conditions arbitrarily imposed by retailers. This article outlines 10 common issues that you should be aware of as a consumer.

1. Your flash 100 inch TV doesn’t work when you get it out of the box - if the retailer is prepared to provide a free repair you must accept the offer in the first instance. If after the repair, the TV is still not working, you can ask for a refund or a replacement TV. If the seller fails to fix your problem within a reasonable time, you are entitled to have it repaired somewhere else and pass on the costs to the seller.

2.  Does a guarantee/warranty apply when you buy an item on special? This is a simple one, the law is clear that guarantees and warranties apply no matter what price you pay. Even if you get a product for 70% off, the seller is required to give you a guarantee. It is also important to note that it is against the law to display a sign along the following lines ‘No guarantees given’.

3. What if your purchase looks nothing like the picture on the internet or the box it came in? It is against the law to make a false impression, this also applies to advertising, packaging, and information provided online or by shop staff. So if what you saw online or on the box isn’t what appears when you open your purchase, you are entitled to ask for a refund.

4. What if I lose my receipt and want to exchange an item? It often happens, you buy lots of things in a last minute rush and all the receipts are stuffed in your wallet/purse or shopping bags and are lost forever! However, under the Australian Consumer Law, a receipt does not just mean the physical piece of paper handed to you by the shop at the time of purchase. As an example a credit or debit card statement, a copy or photograph of the receipt and even a barcode linked with the purchase can be used as evidence of the purchase.

5. They said it would make me look like an angel from heaven – while we all might think we are angels, this type of advertising is called puffery and is not against the law. Put simply it means that if a claim made by the seller is so ridiculous that no ordinary person would believe it then you can’t claim the seller was trying to fool you.

6. Dodgy tradespeople – The golden rule with tradesmen is to pay on the satisfactory completion of your job. Tradespeople (especially when very busy) will request payment upfront, if you do this then you lose a lot of leverage and it may take a lot of effort (and legal costs) to get your money back should the job not be done or not done properly. Payment of a 10 or 20% deposit is not unreasonable as it gives the tradesperson comfort that you are serious about wanting the job done.

7. Hampers and pre-packaged gift sets – These often appear at Christmas time, the $150 hamper packed with $20 worth of items the retailer hasn’t been able to sell all year! There is not much you can do other than avoid them like the plague.

8. Do the funds raised from charity Christmas cards actually go to charities? It may surprise you to know that 4% of funds raised is the minimum legal amount that a charity is required to provide to charity. The charities are under a legal obligation to state exactly what proportion profits are donated to charity.

9. Too late for a refund? It is important to remember that you probably won’t be able to reject goods you have bought if a reasonable time has elapsed. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances. If your $200 coffee machine is 5 years old when it stops working you can’t reject it and ask for it to be repaired, replaced or for a refund because 5 years a reasonable time for a $200 coffee machine.

10. Parcel Collection Services – The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), being the national regulator of consumer law, warns people to watch out for scammers sending emails posing as postal services and asking for money for parcel delivery. At this time of year we often receive emails apparently from ‘Australia Post’ or ‘FedEx’ telling us that we have missed a parcel delivery and the information for retrieving the package is included in an attachment to the email. Do not open the attachment! If you do the attachment will install ransomware/malware on your computer. Such programs access your computer system and demands a ransom be paid to the creator of the malware in order for the restrictions to be removed from your computer.

So be warned, there are scammers and dodgy people out there keener than ever at this time of year to trick you into parting with your cash. However, there are many good retailers and law abiding folk who will do the right thing if something goes wrong with a purchase.

If you are an unfortunate victim of a scam or a dodgy retailer, we may be able to assist you. Please contact us on 03 6332 9353 or complete our simple form that can be found at http://www.cormistonlegal.com.au/contact

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