COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today offered consumer protection tips for the busiest shopping time of the year.
Last year, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section received over 3,700 complaints in November and December. This year, the National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales to increase as much as four percent, and it says an estimated 69 percent of Americans plan to shop over Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s a busy time of year, and we want to help consumers avoid problems,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Prevention and awareness are critical.”
This holiday shopping season, consumers should keep in mind:
– Sellers can set their own return policies. Under Ohio’s consumer protection laws, sellers can choose to set their own return policies, including policies of “no returns,” but they must clearly tell you what the policy is before you complete the purchase. (For example, the return policy shouldn’t be posted only on the back of a receipt.)
– Important exclusions and limitations should be disclosed. Ads should clearly disclose important exclusions and limitations of an offer, so check to see if limited quantities are available, if a sale is valid only during certain hours, or if other terms and conditions apply.
– Not all gift cards are alike. In general, most gift cards must last at least five years, but fees may vary depending on the type of card it is. For example, funds on a prepaid network-branded card that can be used most anywhere may reduce in value faster than funds on a single-store gift card. Also, promotional cards, such as those that come free with a purchase, may not have the same protections and may only last a short period of time.
– Rain checks apply only in certain situations. If a seller advertises a product at a certain price but sells out of that product by the time you respond to the ad, you may have the right to a rain check. However, sellers are not required to provide rain checks if they clearly disclose the number of goods available at that price or if they clearly state that no rain checks will be given.
– Paying with a credit card usually offers greater protection. In general, with a credit card, your responsibility for unauthorized charges is limited to $50 and you have certain rights to dispute charges that you may not have with a debit card or other form of payment.
Attorney General DeWine also reminds consumers to beware of scams, which operate year round. Common scams include the IRS impostor scam, fake charity scams, lottery scams, and tech support scams. Consumers who want to learn more about scams or get help addressing a consumer problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at [www.ohioprotects.org]www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.
Story courtesy of Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.