a Wise Shopper this Holiday Season
Online shopping and gift certificates have become convenient options
for consumers who don't want to brave the maddening mall rush during
the holiday season. Whether you buy from an e-tailer or a retailer,
the California Department of Consumer Affairs has a few holiday hints,
which can help you be a wise shopper this year.
Gift Certificates are Quick and Easy
to Give. Gift Certificates are becoming
increasingly popular to give during the holiday season. Surveys show
40-50 percent or more of consumers purchase gift certificates for
A Timeless Gift?: Remember that most gift certificates cannot have
an expiration date, and are valid until redeemed or replaced. A gift
card that can be used with multiple sellers of goods or services that
are not affiliated may contain an expiration date. If so, the expiration
date must be printed on the card. A gift certificate or gift card
that is sold to the purchaser as a gift for another person (the “recipient”)
may state a date by which the recipient must redeem the certificate
There is an exception to the “no expiration date” rule.
A seller that chooses to state a redemption date on a gift card or
gift certificate must give the purchaser a full refund of the amount
paid for the certificate or card if the recipient does not redeem
it by the redemption date. Certain gift certificates or gift cards
sold after January 1, 1998 may be exempt. These include: certificates
that are distributed under various awards programs; certificates sold
to employers or to nonprofit and charitable organizations for fundraising
purposes; and certificates issued for food products.
With these exceptions it should also be noted that retailers aren't
required to redeem a certificate for cash. It is strictly based on
the policies of the sellers.
Refunds & Exchanges:
Always review the company's return policy. Is proof of purchase required?
Is there a time frame for returns? By law, stores don't have to offer
refunds and exchanges, provided that this policy is clearly stated.
Return policies must be displayed if the retailer does not give a
full cash or credit refund, an equal exchange, or some combination
of these, in the event the customer returns the merchandise within
seven days with proof of purchase.
Click With Caution When Shopping Online:
Know Your E-tailer: Consumers should familiarize themselves with online
companies. Although businesses may seem as close as your keyboard,
in reality they could be on the other side of the world. Consequently,
problems could arise if products need to be returned. Will they give
you a cash refund? Who pays shipping on returned items?
Shop Trusted Brands: Look for brand items that you know and trust.
A bargain brand really isn't a bargain if it turns out to be an inferior
understand what companies do with your personal information before
giving out credit card numbers or other personal information. For
more privacy protection information log on to: www.privacy.ca.gov.
Review Customer Service: Make sure you can call, write or get through
to customer service if problems arise with your purchases. Even an
e-mail response should tell consumers when a customer service representative
will contact them.
Check DCA's E-Consumer Tips: Visit the Department's Web site at www.dca.ca.gov/e_consumer
for more helpful information on safe online shopping.
Hey Big Spenders:
For big-ticket purchases, such as televisions, stereos and computers,
do an independent cost comparison on these items. "Before a consumer
considers purchasing a service contract he or she should read it thoroughly,"
says Brian Stiger, Acting Chief for the Bureau of Electronic &
Appliance Repair. "The service contract details the exact coverage
consumers are getting. It's like an extended warranty." For additional
information log on to: www.bear.ca.gov.
Remember that a service contract may not offer much protection if
it includes too many exclusions.
The Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair encourages consumers
to research items they intend to purchase. "Check Consumer Reports
and read any other information on the product," adds Stiger.
"This will help consumers make the best decision and ultimately
give them the best value for their money.""Be a Wise Shopper"
is just one wish on the Department's "Consumers' Holiday Wish
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