This Friday, November 24, is Black Friday, a day that has become synonymous with discounts and deals that entice consumers to shop for the goods they need or desire. With Christmas only a few weeks away, Black Friday deals are also a good opportunity to save some money when purchasing gifts.

While the prospect of saving money is undoubtedly exciting, it is, however, very important for consumers to be aware of their rights to avoid problems and disappointments. The following is a guide regarding consumer rights and responsibilities during Black Friday and also some practical tips on how consumers can make informed purchases.

Right to transparent pricing

The Price Indication Regulations require traders to clearly indicate the prices of goods they are offering for sale. This obligations applies even when prices are reduced for a seasonal or time-limited offer such as Black Friday. It is not enough for sellers to just indicate the percentage discount.

Furthermore, all advertised offers must be genuine. Some retailers may inflate the original price to make the discount appear bigger than it actually is. This practice is in breach of consumer legislation and thus illegal.

If a shop is making a comparison with previous prices, the price with which the discounted price is compared to must be the lowest price the product was sold by the trader within a period of at least 30 days preceding the price reduction announcement.

It is wise for consumers to familiarise themselves with the pre-sale prices of the products of interest to them to ensure that the advertised discounts are genuine

Right to return and refund

Regardless of the discounted prices, consumers still have a right to claim a free remedy in case any products turn out to be faulty or misrepresented. Goods sold to consumers must be as described by the seller, fit for their intended purpose, and must be of the quality and deliver the performance that is normal in goods of the same type.

If these rights are breached, sellers – whether online and in-store – are legally obliged to provide consumers with a free remedy which can take the form of repair or replacement. Part or full refund may also be claimed when faulty goods can neither be repaired nor replaced, or when such remedies can cause consumers a significant inconvenience.

If, however, following a purchase, consumers change their mind, sellers are not obliged to offer a remedy. In these situations, what applies is the seller’s voluntary return policy. It is the consumer’s responsibility to check a company’s return policy before finalising a purchase to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Consumers planning to start shopping for Christmas presents during Black Friday should double-check with sellers if any unwanted gifts can be returned or exchanged after Christmas. This information, alongside with other relevant terms and conditions, should be clearly written on the gift receipt or the proof of purchase.

Research and shop around

Before hitting the streets, both virtually and in-store, consumers are advised to carry out some research to gather information on the outlets that are offering the best deals. It is wise for consumers to familiarise themselves with the pre-sale prices of the products of interest to them to ensure that the advertised discounts are genuine.

It is also recommended to compare prices and offers of different outlets. This exercise would help consumers avoid being impressed by bombastic discount claims. Furthermore, before seriously considering taking up an offer, consumers should focus their attention on the selling price, not the percentage discount.

Shopping for Black Friday deals online

When shopping online from an EU-based seller, consumers are entitled to a 14-day withdrawal period during which they can change their mind and return the unwanted item for a full refund. It is, however, important to carefully read the return policy as the seller may request consumers to pay for the return postage.

A problem, consumers may encounter when shopping online is non-delivery. Unless otherwise specified in the sales agreement, goods ordered must be delivered within 30 days. If not, consumers may opt to cancel the sale and request a full refund.

When comparing prices of different offers online, consumers should make sure that the price includes shipping and tax.

While Black Friday offers exciting opportunities for savings, to ensure a positive shopping experience consumers should be aware of their rights and responsibilities. Should consumers encounter any problems or come across misleading offers, they may contact the Office for Consumer Affairs by filling in the ‘Contact us’ form on the MCCAA website or by calling on 8007 4400.

 

odette.vella@mccaa.org.mt

Correction 21 November: The Price Indication Regulations link originally referred to in the article was not the latest updated one. 

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