During the holiday season, when many shoppers will be looking for the perfect gift at a great price, the Consumer Protection Office is reminding consumers to take precautions and be aware of their rights and obligations when making holiday purchases.
Always ask retailers about their return policies before making purchases. All sales should be considered final unless a store’s refund and exchange policy says otherwise. Many stores will refund or exchange gifts, but they are not obligated to do so and there is no prohibition against stores charging a restocking fee.
Under Manitoba law, sellers cannot charge activation, transaction or maintenance fees for gift cards, except for a maximum monthly dormancy fee of $2.50 for cards issued by multiple affiliated sellers such as shopping malls. Expiry dates are not allowed except if the card is issued or sold for specific goods or services (such as a manicure) or if nothing of value is exchanged for the card at the time of issue (such as cards issued for promotional or charitable purposes, or as part of a reward or loyalty program).
Retailers in Manitoba are responsible for warranty claims even if the item includes instructions to return goods to the manufacturer for repair or replacement. Under the Consumer Protection Act, merchants have the choice of repairing or replacing goods, or refunding money if the item purchased is faulty. Before purchasing an extended warranty, always ask the retailer for details of the manufacturer’s warranty that comes with the product.
Care and caution are recommended when making purchases online. Before providing a credit card number or other financial information, make sure the merchant has a secure transaction system. Most browsers indicate when you are using a secure Internet link. Look for one or both of these clues:
An icon — often a lock — at the bottom of the screen, which should be in the locked position.
A website address beginning with https://. The ‘s’ indicates the site is secure.
Consumers should also research the online seller by contacting organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and by entering the company’s name, along with the word “fraud” into an Internet search engine to see if other online shoppers have had problems. For information about how the Consumer Protection Act protects online shoppers, contact the Consumer Protection Office.
Anyone who solicits a consumer directly for sales by phone, at their door or at a home party must be licensed as a direct seller through the Consumer Protection Office. Ask to see their licence or contact the Consumer Protection Office.
For questions about holiday shopping or to find out about your rights and responsibilities, contact the Consumer Protection Office at 204-945-3800, 1-800-782-0067 (toll-free) or visit the website at gov.mb.ca/cca/cpo.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 11, 2012