CPB Urges Consumers to Make Informed Shopping Decisions

Shopping Tips from Consumer Protection Board

November 24, 2010 Updated Nov 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

By WKBW News

...

Shopping Tips from Consumer Protection Board

November 24, 2010 Updated Nov 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

NEW YORK, NY (WKBW-TV)-- The New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) reminds consumers to be mindful of marketplace practices when purchasing gifts. This alert is being released in advance of the first Friday and the first Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, which are respectively known as "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday," and are considered the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.

"The CPB urges consumers to exercise caution as they look for holiday bargains in stores and on the Internet and spend their hard-earned money," said CPB Chairperson and Executive Director Mindy A. Bockstein. "Consumers should remember to comparison shop among different retail outlets, read the refund and shipping policies and be careful with their credit and personal information to avoid falling victim to identity theft."

ALERT DETAILS: WHAT CONSUMERS SHOULD KNOW:

Take Note of the Purchase and Use Rules Related to Gift Cards -- Consumers should carefully review the terms and conditions of use prior to purchasing a gift certificate or card, including the imposition of various fees, especially 'dormancy fees' for non-use. Consumers should also check the card's expiration date and determine if there are any restrictions on the use of the gift card. They should be aware of the replacement policy in case it is lost or stolen
Shop Safely Online on Cyber Monday -- Consumers should protect their personal identifiable information when making purchases online. It is imperative that consumers ensure they are conducting their transactions over a secure connection; and, that the online retailer has an adequate privacy policy. Consumers should understand the shipping and handling charges associated with online deliveries, as well as the return and refund policies for items purchased.
Be Careful Purchasing Big Ticket Items -- When purchasing big ticket items, consumers should look for warranty coverage on the item; check out stock availability; and, evaluate financing options carefully. As consumers comb retail advertisements, they should take note of the fine print and the quantity of the product available at the advertised price, as well as whether rain checks are available
Understand Layaway Plans -- Layaway plans vary by store. Consumers should make sure they read ALL of the terms in the contract and have their questions answered regarding the payment schedules, refund policies and penalties for missing a payment before moving forward with a plan. A copy of the contract and a record of payments should be retained by the purchaser.
Look For the Refund Policy -- Consumers should review a store's refund policy before considering a purchase and ask any questions. If the store does not post a return policy, the law requires the store to accept a return within 30 days of purchase. Be especially aware of refund deadlines if you're buying gifts well before the holidays, like on Black Friday. By the time you give your gift, it may already be beyond the store's refund deadline. It is important to inquire whether the store imposes a re-stocking fee for returned merchandise and if the merchandise has to be in a certain condition for the return to be accepted.
Avoid Credit Card Debt -- If not careful, holiday purchases may cost consumers more than what is on their receipt. The CPB urges consumers to avoid credit card debt by tracking their spending, being cognizant of credit card limits and sticking to a realistic budget. Consumers should verify receipts and reconcile them against their statement. In addition, consumers should refrain from using their credit card for cash advances. The fees and interest on such transactions are higher than for credit card purchases.