20/12/12 The post-Christmas sales can be a heart-thumping, major excitement rush for some – or a source of horror and trepidation for others.
But whether you’re rushing out with your sleeping bag at 4 am to bag the first bargains or being dragged kicking and screaming against your will to the local shopping centre, be savvy when you shop. The sales can be great, but there are lots of things you need to watch out for – in the shopping centre or online.
Pay the best way: Remember your rights under the Consumer Credit Act. If you pay by credit card (in full or even just a deposit) and you spend between £100 and £30,000, you’re protected by section 75 of the act. This means that if the items are faulty or aren’t as advertised, you could be entitled to your money back from the card provider. Bear in mind that if you use a third party (like a ticket agency or website that compiles lists of service or goods providers) you might not be covered by the act.
You can’t buy happiness: You’ve got lots of statutory rights as a shopper, but they don’t cover you for not liking something or not having a good time. Most legislation covers faulty goods. Items you want to exchange or return that aren’t faulty should be brought back as soon as possible – and check the shop’s returns policy against the Resolver guides to your rights. If you’re buying for a birthday or a gift that won’t be given for a while, check the retailer’s policy on returns for an unused item after a month – ask them by email if it’s not clear so you’ve got a record.
Don’t snip it till you’re sure: It seems obvious but keep the receipts and tags on items where possible (you can take the price off a gift!) Photograph receipts just in case they get lost in the chaos of the sales and don’t forget to ask for a gift receipt if you’re not sure your aunt will like that Iron Maiden box set on sale.
Gift cards and vouchers: If you got a gift card or voucher for Christmas don’t shove into your purse or wallet and forget about it. They have expiry dates – and they’re not always obvious. Usually, the maximum amount of time you have to use the cards or vouchers is a year (though many are as little as six months). The same goes for experience days and other “event” purchases. Don’t forget to use them if you’ve been given them – and if you can’t set aside the time to enjoy the experience, speak to the service providers and ask them if they’ll extend it for you.
Don’t be given the runaround: If you buy from a retailer and the goods are faulty or don’t work, your contract is with them – not the manufacturer. Don’t be fobbed off. Ask to speak to the manager if you try to take something back and the shop tells you otherwise. If you buy online, the same goes for damaged or undelivered goods. It’s not your problem what the delivery company did – your contract is with the seller. This is different for private sales (like on eBay, for example) – but if you use an online marketplace there’s usually a dispute resolution service you can turn to.
Put your cynical hat on: That widescreen TV might sound an amazing bargain when the sign says 75% off. But how much is it priced with competitors? If unsure, grip it tightly and check online on your phone and see how much the item is priced with competitors. If you type the make and model of an item into a search drive, you’ll usually get the full range of prices, including the original retail price from the manufacturer.
Think before you click: Online sales are often very tempting but watch out for unfamiliar websites and ones based abroad where the consumer rights in that country might be substantially different or harder to pursue if there’s a problem. Never give your card details to a shop you don’t know or recognise and never pay by cheque or direct transfer.
Chose chargeback: Though debit cards aren’t covered by the Consumer Credit Act, you still have rights if you pay with them. This is known as ‘chargeback’. Chargeback is basically an agreement between the main debit card providers to recall your money if it’s been debited incorrectly or something dodgy is going on. You can’t charge back an item you’re not happy with – that’s a dispute with the shop. Chargeback time limits vary depending on who provides your debit card. So don’t delay if you’re unhappy.
Make a plan of action: Ever got back from the sales to find you’ve bought a load of old tat you don’t want? We can’t help you if you get carried away on the day, but before you go to the sales, power up the computer and make a list of what you really want/need. Research the best value and quality brands. Look at the consumer reviews (remember some of these can be fake so don’t take them all at face value) and prepare a plan covering what you want – and how much you want to spend.