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For Immediate Release
June 18, 2004
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

CONSUMER ALERT: TIPS TO MAKE BUYING FURNITURE A COMFORTABLE EXPERIENCE

Purchases of furniture and mattresses frequently generate consumer complaints: items are not delivered when promised, items are damaged or defective, and the terms of returns and refunds are disputed. In the latest issue of his Consumer’s Edge newsletter, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. offers tips to help furniture buyers have a satisfactory experience:

• Pay the smallest deposit acceptable. If you are ordering furniture and paying in full is not required, put only a small deposit down. That way, less of your money is at risk if the store should go out of business. Paying the deposit by credit card also gives you some protection.

• Check out the return policy. Under what circumstances are refunds given, and is the total amount refunded? Refunds may be given in store credit only. Furniture stores often charge a “re-stocking fee” (which can be as much as 20 to 25 percent of the item’s price) for items that are returned due to the consumer’s change of heart. Also, many stores do not take returns of custom-made furniture, as when you order a sofa in a special fabric–so be sure you can live with your choice.

• Think about financing offers carefully. “0% financing/no payments for a year” offers are only a good deal if you are certain you will be able to pay off the total amount before the year is up. If you don’t, you are usually charged interest retroactively from the day of the purchase.

• Get an estimated delivery date in writing. Under Maryland law, if a dealer fails to deliver your item within two weeks of the latest estimated delivery date, you have the right to cancel the sale and receive a full refund or a credit equal to your deposit, negotiate a new delivery date, or choose something else to purchase instead of the original item. However, these provisions don’t apply if the delay is caused by the manufacturer. In that case, the dealer must promptly inform you of the delay and give you written notice of a new estimated delivery date.

• When arranging for delivery, ask if there are extra charges for flights of stairs, and if the delivery team will assemble or set up the furniture for you.

• Don’t sign for acceptance of the delivery until you have made sure that all the items are there and you have inspected them. If an item is defective or damaged, you can refuse to accept delivery or accept it but note the damage on the delivery form. Either way, contact the store and ask for a replacement or repair.

• Your furniture may come with a manufacturer’s warranty–for example, the springs and frame of a sofa may be warranted for two years. However, all goods purchased in Maryland are covered by an “implied warranty” that they will perform for a reasonable period. A chair should not fall apart within a month, for example. You can ask the store from which you bought the furniture for a refund or replacement under the implied warranty.

• Floor models and closeout items are often sold on an “as is, all sales final” basis. That means you are accepting the visible condition and any disclosed defects. However, hidden defects are still covered by the implied warranty.

The complete issue of The Consumer’s Edge on furniture buying, and previous issues on consumer topics, can be found at www.oag.state.md.us/consumer/edge115.

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