To help shoppers avoid unpleasant surprises over the festive season, Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards team has compiled a shopping survival guide.
John Scott, Cumbria Trading Standards Officer, said: “We want everyone to enjoy the Christmas period. By following our tips, people can avoid the risk of being ripped off, or injured by poor quality gifts over the festive period. We would advise everyone to be careful what you buy this Christmas and where you buy it from.”
Buying online – In most cases if you shop online you have a right to cancel and receive a full refund, even if you just don’t like the goods or have simply changed your mind. You normally have 14 days to cancel a contract unless the goods have been made specifically for you. Know who you are buying from and make sure you know where the trader is based. Check that online retailers are safe; ensure that the locked padlock symbol is visible when paying and be wary of websites that ask for personal information and are not high street names.
Faulty goods – You have statutory rights if goods you have purchased are faulty or not fit for purpose. Try to keep receipts or email confirmations as it will help if things go wrong and don’t delay in complaining. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 stores must offer a full refund if a faulty item is returned within 30 days
Unwanted gifts – Your statutory rights do not apply if you simply changed your mind. However, many shops have their own returns policy or offer a gift receipt, particularly when it comes to Christmas gifts, so you may find the shop is willing to refund or exchange your unwanted item without question. This does not impact in anyway, your legal rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Check out the store’s returns policy before you buy. Remember if you bought online, you may have additional rights – see above.
Product safety – Be safe this Christmas whether you are looking to buy Christmas lights, electrical goods as presents or even an extra heater to keep you warm. Make sure that your intended purchases have a CE mark, the manufacturer’s identity or mark, ensure that it has a 3 pin plug, and more complex items should have warnings and instructions for use supplied. The same advice applies to all toys, whether they are large expensive items or pocket money ‘stocking fillers’.
Fakes – In the current financial climate you may be tempted by a product for sale at a cheaper price. But, watch out, counterfeit goods such as computer games, clothing, perfume, electrical hair straighteners and jewellery may appear to be a bargain, but in practice they rarely are. The quality is often very poor. Electrical goods may be a fire or electrical shock hazard and perfumes and cosmetics may contain harmful substances. Plus you may be supporting organised crime with your purchase and you are depriving the legitimate industry and those who sell genuine goods.
Buying goods on your credit card – For items costing over £100, use a credit card as you get additional protection even if you only use your card to pay a small amount. If something goes wrong and the trader won’t help, the credit card company may have to step in. But make sure you pay it off in January to avoid interest charges.
Christmas loans – Some people may look to borrow in order to afford Christmas, and may even resort to using loan sharks. These illegal money lenders are unlicensed and operate outside the law. You must be certain if you are borrowing money that it is only coming from a reputable lender. Do you understand exactly what you are signing up to and what will happen if your financial situation gets worse? If you are in a circumstance where you have a bad credit history but are in need of a loan, consider seeking support from a Credit Union who can provide an effective and viable alternative to the so called ‘pay day lenders.’
Cumbria has a number of credit unions throughout the county : http://www.cumbriacreditunions.org.uk/where.asp
Call out charges – Not everything runs smoothly at Christmas. If you have to call out a tradesman for an emergency repair during this festive season make sure you know what the ‘call out’ or ‘minimum charge’ will be before you agree. Make sure you both understand what work will be carried out, what it will cost (or how it will be calculated) and when and how the trader expects payment. A trader must provide an invoice or receipt showing full details of work carried out, including any parts supplied, labour and other costs. A trader must make any “call out” charge or “minimum charge” known to the customer prior to a visit being made. Remember, some home insurance policies may cover emergencies!