Commissioner's Blog: Christmas shopping tips
With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard
The average Australian will spend $599 on presents this Christmas, according to a Commonwealth Bank survey of consumers. That’s up from $475 in 2015.
Gift loved ones not retailers
Usually billions of dollars will go on gift cards across Australia, however, with up to a third of receivers expected not to use theirs, you may wish to consider cash or a physical present. The other potential problem is a business going bust and the voucher potentially becoming worthless. If you really must buy a gift card pick one that is open-ended or has a long duration before the expiry date. Remind whoever you give the voucher to, to use it as soon as possible. Perhaps early in 2017 ask them what they bought with it.
Our product safety officers check a myriad of items; from toys with small removable parts which pose a choking hazard to flammable decorations which will be near a naked flame, such as candle holder wreaths.
Button battery powered products, such as musical greeting cards and remote controls need to be kept away from little ones. If ingested by a child, button batteries can burn through internal organs and tragically there have been deaths. This year items voluntarily withdrawn from WA shops due to unsecure button battery compartments included flashing reindeer noses and necklaces, as well as baubles that change colour. Report product safety concerns to Consumer Protection by email: email@example.com or phone: 1300 30 40 54.
Know returns rights
Consumer law guarantees that products from Australian-based retailers, including those trading online, are free from defects, fit for their intended purpose and match any description given. You are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair if the product is faulty, unsafe or not as described. All you need is proof of purchase and it doesn’t matter if packaging has been thrown away. Any blanket ‘no refunds or exchanges’ policies are illegal. Even if a store claims jewellery, underwear or swimwear cannot be returned for hygiene reasons, you ARE entitled to redress if earrings, lingerie etc. fall short of consumer law guarantees.
However, if want to return a gift because you got two, it’s not the right size, you don’t like the style or colour or want to exchange it for something you prefer, the returns policy will differ from store to store. Returns policies for wrong choice or change of mind are completely at the retailer’s discretion; it is goodwill not a legal obligation. In saying that, retailers must abide by their stated or promoted returns policy.
Have your consumer law rights at your fingertips by downloading our free app iShopWA.
Check bank statements
Keep an eye out for any double ups or unauthorised transactions. At this time of year retail staff can be under pressure and human error of charging twice is possible. It’s also a time of year when scammers or identity thieves may get hold of your card numbers and use them. If you don’t check your statements, you won’t know.
Avoid a financial hangover
There could be chargeback options, insurance benefits and sometimes even price match protection when you use a credit card BUT make sure you pay off the amount owing as soon as you can. See www.moneysmart.gov.au for a calculator to work out how much you save by paying off your credit card early and other consumer finance tips.
July 2020: Please note the iShopWA app is no longer supported. Consumer Protection recommends the ACCC Shopper app, which offers similar functionality and is available in both the App Store and Google Play.
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