Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Letter of the day | Consumers encouraged to beware during holiday shopping

Published:Saturday | November 30, 2019 | 12:34 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The Christmas Season is upon us and with that, of course, comes the shopping for Christmas presents, Christmas outings and the works.

But in the midst of all the merriment, there exists a need for caution, not only as it regards being on high-alert and mindful of our surroundings so as to avoid the all too indulgent pickpockets and thieves, but we must also watch out for the misleading gibes of retailers and service providers; from those who offer electricity, telecommunication services, and even more so, those offering higher budget goods and services such as motor-vehicles, industrial machines and the works.

In this respect, a few provisions of Consumer Protect Act (CPA) are relevant and should be in the forefront of the minds of all consumers at this time.

Below are some useful guides:

1. RIGHT TO BE INFORMED

Section 18 of the CPA gives consumers the right to be informed of, as far as is reasonably practicable, all the information relating to the goods and services being sold, particularly as it relates to its use, operation, built and care.

Too often Jamaicans find themselves in a quandary of purchasing goods that they are told nothing about, and when and if such goods appear with faults, and are subsequently returned to retailers, retailers posture as if the consumer should have known. Separate and apart from such behaviour being riddled with the residue of bad customer service plaguing Jamaicans in most aspects of service, it is simply unacceptable.

2. CLEAR INFORMATION

It is imperative that retailers and service providers are keen to remember that they have a duty to clearly and cogently inform prospective customers of exactly what they are selling, notwithstanding that an argument can be made that any reasonable purchaser for goods must probe, and have an idea as to the state of the goods they are purchasing.

It is supposed that a reasonable way for retailers/service providers to ensure that consumers are well informed would be to ensure that goods purchased are provided with a sheet or booklet of instructions, are properly labelled, described and packaged. This may seem basic, but with the Christmas rush, it cannot be taken for granted.

3. EMPOWERED WITH RIGHTS

Christmas shoppers and consumers of services must also be reminded that they are empowered with the right to inspect and check the products and services to which they are committed to purchasing. Section 19 of the CPA speaks to the rights of consumers to check the measurement, weight or volume of any goods where the measurement, weight or volume affects the price of the goods.

Here is where online shopping and the associated third-party overseas shipping companies come in. If consumers do not believe that weights quoted as it concerns their parcels are fair, they are empowered with the right to verify the measurement, weight or volume and must not be restricted from exercising this right.

4. HONEST AND FAIR

Retailers, in this regard, are therefore encouraged to be honest and fair, as misquoting measurements, weights and/or volumes is an offence under the CPA and attracts a fine of up to $500,000.00.

5. TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF WARRANTIES

Requesting information concerning the terms and conditions of all warranties extended is a next major, an often rarely explored aspect of our purchases. It is the right of the consumer to be issued explicit warranties, whether the goods/services are new or used and the retailer must also indicate whether the warranty offers the repair of the particular goods/services being purchased.

Like Christmas carols, we hear the pronouncements through the streets; “you get warranty if you purchase NOW!” But what are the terms of the warranty that you are getting? Are some of these pronouncements subject to ‘warranty agreements’ which may upon examination be unfair and misleading?

6. CAREFULLY READ ALL DOCUMENTATION

READ and again carefully read all documentation provided while making a purchase and demand your receipts for purchase. Reading over all documents provided after a purchase of goods and services cannot be overstressed, especially in purchase of more expensive goods such as large appliances, office equipment/machinery, and motor vehicles.

7. COLLECT ALL YOUR RECEIPTS

But all in all, during this season of merriment, and while chugging down the sorrel, remember to beware while spending and be sure to collect all your receipts properly endorsed with the date, amount paid, description of goods/services obtained, as you may very well need it!

STEPHANIE S. STONE

Attorney-at-law