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Posted on March 1st 2009 in Commercial Law

The Holiday Shopping Primer

The Christmas season is the biggest shopping event of the year. To make your holiday shopping as hassle free as possible we have prepared a list of helpful information to read before you head to the mall.

Many consumers put down a deposit on an item or arrange to purchase through a layaway plan. What they may not know is that if they change their mind about the purchase, their deposit could be lost. Before you give a deposit, find out what the store’s cancellation policy is and get it in writing.

Buying on Credit
Many stores have deals to buy now and pay later. In such cases, the seller must provide the customer with a written statement detailing all financing charges and the annual percentage rate of the credit transaction. Any extra charges for failing to make the payments at the designated time must also be explained in writing.

The Electronic Market Place
In many ways shopping on the Internet is like shopping at the mall, except you do not have trouble finding a parking space!

Remember that when you click “complete purchase” you have entered into a binding contract. The electronic store, like its bricks and mortar counterpart, is entitled to create its own return and refund policies. Be sure to read the site’s terms and conditions, and print all contracts and receipts.

Gift Cards
Gift cards have become one of the most popular gifts. Until recently, the main problem with a gift card was that most expired after a year or two. However, in Ontario, as of October 1, 2007, expiry dates have been abolished.

You should know that expiry dates on Mall gift cards will not be abolished until the end of June 2008. In addition, the law does not apply to loyalty cards and does not apply to cards that are subject to federal jurisdiction, such as pre-paid phone cards.

As a matter of good customer relations, most stores will accept returns or exchanges. But understand that the law does not require stores to do this. Therefore, it is important that you ask the store about its policy for returns, refunds and final sales before you complete the purchase.

Unsolicited Goods
If you receive goods in the mail that you did not order, you do not have to accept them or pay for them. You can use them as you see fit or even toss them.

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to join a gym, learn to dance, or enroll in a weight loss program? If so, you should know that:

o You cannot be required to sign a contract for longer than 12 months;
o You must be given the option to pay your membership fees monthly, although you can be charged up to 25% more; and
o You have a 10-day cooling off period to cancel your membership and get your money back.

While there are many fine organizations doing important charitable work, there are also those who prey on generous donors. Unfortunately, these phony charities seem to spring up during the Christmas season.

Before agreeing to donate, you should carefully look at the charity’s full name, since bogus organizations will often use names that are similar to the names of legitimate charities.

Be aware that one of the most common scams is a phone call telling you that you gave last year and hoping you will be generous again this holiday season.

If you have a complaint about a product or service you have purchased, do not be afraid to stand up for yourself. The following are a few tips for getting a satisfactory result.

o Talk to someone who has the authority to solve your problem. Neither the cashier nor the clerk in customer service usually has the requisite authority
o Be clear about how your complaint can be solved. Do you want the item replaced or repaired or do you want a refund?
o Write a letter of complaint to the store manager or owner.
o If your complaint is related to an unfair practice, such as deceptive promotions and sales pitches, contact the Ontario Ministry of Government Services. The staff specialize in complaints resolution and can suggest a course of action.
o Keep track of when and who you have spoken to.
o Be respectful, but be firm.