November 27, 2018

Consumer Protection Tips for Successful Holiday Shopping:

As the holiday season approaches, many shoppers are anxious about getting the best deals on gifts while remaining safe and protected against deceptive business practices. Below are some tips to help guarantee a successful holiday shopping trip this winter:

Before you make a purchase, learn the store’s policies on refunds, cancellations, returns, and layaways. If you choose to do some online shopping, pay with a credit card which has additional consumer protection. Check that sites are secure before entering any information (look for https before the URL), and search customer reviews to verify the quality of the product and service.

It is also important to familiarize yourself with consumer protection law so that you can spot any unfair or deceptive business practices. A few examples of this include:

  • A business charging more than the price marked on an item
  • An unclear refund, return, or warranty policy
  • A business misleading the consumer or failing to disclose relevant information about a product or service
  • Using “bait and switch” advertising, where the seller advertises a low-priced item, but encourages the customer to purchase a less favorable but higher-priced item

If you have a gift certificate you are planning on using, review gift certificate laws before visiting the store. Gift cards purchased in Massachusetts are valid for seven years and are not subject to any fees, as long as they are not backed by a federal bank. If the gift certificate is not clearly marked with an expiration date on the certificate, the vendor’s website, or on the printed sales receipt, the gift certificate is good forever.

Also follow steps to protect yourself against identity theft - in the case that you experience a lost or stolen credit or debit card, report the missing card to the issuer right away. Call the three major credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be put on your credit file and then change your account, PIN, and card to prevent additional fraudulent transactions.

If you are looking for further information about consumer protection, theft, warranties, and more,visit the Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation or the Office of the Attorney General If you are in need of legal representation, please call the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625, submit an online request for a call back, or select a lawyer now.