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December 7, 2019

Consumer Protection: Shop Safe This Holiday Season

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 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)
  • Utilize 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 such as:

  • 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 at least 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.

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.