Holiday Shopping Safety Hints and Tips
Be Aware of a Store’s Return Policy; Know the Terms
and Conditions Before Purchasing a Gift Card
MD (December 16, 2008) - Because the “perfect
gift” often isn’t, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler
is advising consumers to find out a store’s return policy
before they make a purchase. 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. 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.
For example, a store
can choose not to accept any returns at all, accept returns only
within a certain period of time, or allow returns
for exchange or store credit only–as long as it posts the
policy. If the retailer doesn’t have a posted policy, the
consumer may assume there are no refund limitations and must receive
a merchandise exchange or a refund. Also, if a purchased item is
defective, the store is required to repair it, exchange it or give
a refund, regardless of its return policy.
Before setting out
on that next shopping trip, Attorney General Gansler advises
consumers to be aware of the following shopping
- If you don’t
see a return policy posted, ask the store what it is. Some
stores put their policy on their receipts only,
you wouldn’t see until after you made a purchase.
an employee seems vague about the store’s return
policy, ask the manager for specific details.
- When shopping
online, check the website for the return policy.
You may have to pay a shipping fee to return the item,
and some sites charge a re-stocking fee.
“We all take the time to pick out that perfect gift for
a loved one,” said Attorney General Gansler. “Knowing
a store’s return policy is just one simple way to make sure
our family and friends are able to return or exchange that gift
without a problem.”
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.
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.
Additional information regarding
store return policies can be found online in the latest edition
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