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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Raquel Guillory, 410-576-6357
rguillory@oag.state.md.us

Holiday Shopping Safety Hints and Tips

BALTIMORE, MD (November 27, 2007) – The holiday season has officially begun and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is offering advice to ensure consumers have the smoothest shopping experience possible.

GIFT CARDS
One of the most popular gifts for any occasion is a gift card. Prior to purchasing a gift card, ask if the gift card has an expiration date or fees after initial use and if the recipient can make online purchases with the card. Since 2006, store-specific cards may not expire less than four years after the date of purchase and may not impose fees or charges of any kind during that four year period. Any terms or conditions concerning an expiration or fee that takes place after that four year period must be printed clearly in a visible place on the card or on a sticker permanently affixed to the gift card or envelope containing the gift card.

RETURNS AND EXCHANGES
Despite the best intentions, refunds and exchanges of gifts are common during the holiday season. A retailer is allowed to set whatever policy it chooses for returns or exchanges, as long as it posts the policy. Before making a purchase, find out the store’s return policy. The refund rule says that if a store imposes limitations on refunds or returns, the merchant must disclose its policy in writing so consumers are aware of the policy before making their purchases. If you don’t see a posted sign, ask an employee. Also, ask for a gift receipt at the time of purchase to enclose with any gifts. If the store does not offer gift receipts, keep your receipt as evidence to support a refund request.

DEFECTIVE MERCHANDISE
Unfortunately, some of the best presents can be well-received but defective. Purchases are covered by an implied warranty – a guarantee that the item works when you buy it – regardless of the store’s return policy. Implied warranties require that goods be in operating condition and fit for sale, and that they continue to work for a reasonable period of time. Merchants must honor the implied warranty whenever they sell a new or used product. A product sold “as is” does not fall under Maryland’s implied warranty, other than used cars that have been driven more than 60,000 miles and are more than six years old. Dealers selling such a car “as is” must give you a written disclosure stating that the implied warranty does not cover automobiles.

If consumers have any questions, they should contact the Consumer Protection Division’s hotline at 410-528-8662 or visit the website, www.oag.state.md.us/consumer.


   

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