Trade fairs are organised with the aim of attracting consumers and stimulating purchases. During trade fairs, consumers have the possibility to compare offers of products and services from different traders present under the same roof.

Trade fair offers are usually very appealing as they give consumers the prospect of benefitting from significant bargains. The desire to buy goods or services at reduced prices may sometimes lead to reckless shopping and aftersales problems. Being aware of one’s legal rights and responsibilities as a consumer may avoid such unnecessary problems.

No matter how attractive a promotional offer is, consumers should not agree to sign any contracts of sale or accept to pay a deposit unless fully convinced of the product or service. This is because once a contract is signed or a deposit paid, the sales agreement becomes legally binding and consumers can no longer change their mind.

Should consumers eventually decide to cancel the sale, they may have to face various financial consequences, such as the possibility of losing part or all the deposit paid. There may also be additional financial costs or penalties. These costs are often included in the terms and conditions of the contract of sale consumers are requested to sign. Hence, the importance of reading the sales contract prior to signing it.

Before concluding a sale, consumers should also check that the documentation they are given includes a clear description of the goods or services ordered, the delivery date, the agreed price and how the payment will be made.

When consumers are interested in purchasing a service, before signing they should make sure they fully understand all the terms and conditions. Furthermore, if interested in a particular offer, consumers should ask if by taking up the offer they are binding themselves to a definite contract. If yes, then consumers should gather information on the length of the contract, how it could be terminated, and should also ask what are the penalties if they decide to end the contract prematurely.

Regarding the payment of deposits, while it can be argued that it is standard practice that traders usually decide the amount of deposit required to conclude a sales contract, consumers should be aware that it is in their best interest to only accept to pay a reasonably small deposit. This is because the product or service  ordered still needs to be supplied by the trader and problems may arise in the meantime.

It is in consumers’ best interest to only accept to pay a reasonably small deposit- Odette Vella

One of the worst scenarios is if the seller goes out of business. Should this happen, consumers may face considerable difficulties to get either the goods or their money back. There could also be problems with the actual order, such as a different product being delivered, or arriving damaged or with missing parts. In such situations, the higher the outstanding balance, the better the chances for consumers to obtain a quick solution from the seller.

Another important consumer responsibility is ensuring that they are given proof of any payments made. This could be in the form of a fiscal receipt or any other document that proves what product was purchased, from whom, and the date when the payment was made.

It is also worth remembering that consumer rights do not diminish just because products are sold at a reduced price. In fact, if the goods purchased do not conform with the contract of sale, or are not fit for the particular purpose for which they are bought, consumer law obliges the seller to provide a free remedy.

In the first instance, and where appropriate, the seller must at least offer to repair the defective product. Repair should be accepted by consumers if it is carried within a reasonable time, at no additional costs, and without causing them a significant inconvenience. When this is not possible, then consumers may ask for the goods to be replaced. If a replacement is not possible, then the law entitles consumers to request a refund of part of the price paid or revocation of the sales contract, that is, a full money refund.

These remedies can be claimed by consumers for a period up to two years from the date of purchase.   Consumers should also be extra cautious of offers that appear too good to be true. Huge price reduction claims should be taken with a pinch of salt. In other words, consumers should never buy anything without first shopping around and ensure that they are really getting a good bargain.

When faced with a problem, consumers should complain with the trader immediately. If unsure about their legal rights or the type of remedy they are entitled to, they should then seek the assistance of the MCCAA. Consumers may get in contact with the authority through the ‘Contact Us’ form on www.mccaa.org.mt or by calling on 8007 4400.

WWW.MCCAA.ORG.MT

ODETTE.VELLA@MCCAA.ORG.MT

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