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How to avoid the Christmas rip-offs

By Mark Andrews | Features | Published:

Black Friday, followed by Cyber Monday. This weekend is expected to be the busiest shopping weekend of the year –and not just for the retailers.

Jackie Jeffrey, chief officer of Citizens Advice Shropshire, says November is also the busiest time of the year for staff handling complaints and inquiries about purchases which haven't lived up to expectations.

Over the past year, Citizens Advice consumer service has dealt with almost half a million consumer-related issues such as faulty washing machines, undelivered parcels and fake designer goods. And more than 50,000 of were during November 2018, by far the busiest month for the consumer service.

While the prices are often temptingly low, Mrs Jeffrey points out that consumer law does not take a break during the pre-Christmas sales.

"Even though the prices are reduced, your consumer rights are fully protected," she says.

Mrs Jeffrey is offering advice on how to shop safely in the run-up to Christmas. She also urges people to approach offers to borrow money over the festive season with caution.

“At this time of year many people may feel the pressure to part with their money," she says.

“It is important that anyone thinking about turning to credit or taking out a loan to help pay for purchases understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back."

She adds that anybody struggling with their finance should do something about it at the earliest possible opportunity, with free help available from Citizens Advice.

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Here are a few dos and don'ts about Christmas shopping:

If you change your mind about a purchase:

Unless you made your purchase online, shops aren’t legally required to accept returns for unwanted goods.

Despite this, the shop may choose to have its own returns policy. If it does, they must honour it, so it’s worth checking your receipt.

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If you buy online however, unless it’s bespoke or made to measure, by law you will get an automatic 14-day cooling off period. This starts the day after you receive your order, and there doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.

If you’re worried your purchase is faulty:

If something’s gone wrong with an item you’ve bought, you may be entitled to a refund. You’ll have legal rights if you unwittingly bought an item that is broken or damaged, unusable, not what was advertised or doesn’t match the seller’s description.

But you will need to move quickly, as you only have 30 days to return something for a guaranteed full refund. After that, you may be offered the option of a repair or replacement product.

Avoiding scams:

  • Be careful not to end up with a counterfeit item. Secure websites should start “https” and have a padlock symbol in the taskbar. Be wary of spelling or grammar mistakes, and companies that don’t provide an address.
  • Also seek out reviews of the seller from other buyers as these can help you decide whether or not you trust the seller. If there is a lot of negative feedback from other people, it’s a sign that something’s not right.
  • If you’re worried that something you’ve seen online might be a scam, contact Citizens Advice Scams Action on 0300 330 3003. Alternatively, see the website www.cabshropshire.org.uk

If there’s a problem with your Black Friday delivery:

  • If you bought something to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you.
  • If the seller used a delivery company, it should chase the company to find out what’s happened to your order – it’s not your responsibility.
  • Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact it and ask where your order is.

Tips to stay within your budget:

As well as making sure you’re clued up on your consumer rights, don’t get roped into buying something you can’t afford. Citizens Advice offers the following tips to make sure you’re staying within your budget:

  • Spend time shopping around, researching what deals are on offer and getting advice.
  • Always look at the total amount you will have to repay when borrowing money. A shorter repayment period may be better than a slightly lower Annual Percentage Rate (APR) amount.
  • Take care when looking at buy-now-pay-later deals. It might seem like a good option but you will need to make sure you pay on time in future. If you don't these deals can be very expensive.
  • Never borrow money on the spur of the moment. Think about payment options beforehand. Work out your budget and stick to it so that you can afford the repayments.
Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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