How to be a "savvy shopper" this Christmas! - Know your shopping rights!

With only a few weeks left to shop till you drop, Highland Council’s Trading Standards in partnership with Consumer Direct Scotland want to take the opportunity to give Christmas consumers some timely shopping tips. 

As part of National Consumer Week 2008 which starts today (Monday 17th November), Highland Council’s Trading Standards are compiling a series of articles for consumers on how to survive the shopping stresses of Christmas without breaking the bank.

Whether consumers shop online or do their shopping locally, a reminder of consumer shopping rights (…..and shopping wrongs) may save consumers time and money this Christmas!

In preparation for the annual Christmas spending spree here are some consumer shopping tips that will keep the shopping experience less frantic and less costly:

• Consumers should make a shopping list for ‘presents’ and a separate one for other items such as food, beverages and extras. The ‘Savvy shopper’ will then be able to tell at a glance the overall budget for Christmas and avoid any unexpected surprises.
• Have a small stock of ‘extra’ presents ready wrapped.  A few boxes of shortbread or chocolates ready wrapped means consumers can deal with unexpected gifts from friends and neighbours without being sent into another shopping panic.
• Checking out whether a shop or business has a ‘returns policy’ is always a good idea. Goods bought online or over the phone sometimes have a 7 day cooling off period but there are exclusions. Buyers should always check terms and conditions of contracts before agreeing to buy.
• Consumers should keep their receipts relating to all the purchases that they make at this busy time. Shoppers can use a spare wallet or purse to keep these receipts for gifts. That way if goods become faulty or buyers wish to return a gift for any other reason, i.e. the recipient does not like the colour or it does not fit for instance, proof of purchase is ready available.
• Price can be used as a guide as to quality in most instances. Buy wisely and don’t get carried away by ‘Special Offers’ or ‘Bargain Reductions’. Buyers should examine the goods carefully, including care or assembly instructions before you buy.
• If ordering goods through the internet or a mail order catalogue, consumers should allow plenty of time for goods to be delivered. A 28-day delivery may not be guaranteed and the closer it gets to Christmas deadline – the more unlikely that any order made will be delivered on time.
• When a buyer finds that they have bought faulty goods or goods become faulty, consumers do have the right to ask for a refund or a replacement or a free repair. Shoppers should contact the shop or business that they bought the goods from and complain in writing, if necessary to exercise their shoppers’ rights.
• If consumers buy on their credit card they are further protected. The finance company that provides the credit for credit card purchases are equally liable if goods are faulty or if the business goes bust. Buying single purchases or providing a deposit for goods of £100 by credit card can be an added protection for consumers.
• Remember that buyer’s rights are not affected if a consumer buys a ‘sale’ item. However, if the reduction in the price is due to fault and this has been marked on the item then consumers will not be able to reject these goods at a later stage and ask for a refund.
• Consumers sometimes get confused as to who they have rights against when things go wrong. Buyers have statutory rights against the seller, not the manufacturer. Consumers should not be put off by complaining to the shop or the business they bought their goods from. The seller is responsible if goods become faulty.

If consumers have a problem they wish to discuss with an adviser they can contact Consumer Direct Scotland on 08454 040506 from 8am to 6:30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturday. 

Highland Trading Standards would like to hear from any consumer who feel that they have been misled or have had their rights restricted.

Consumers can write to The Highland Council, Highland Trading Standards or visit at the following address: Highland Trading Standards, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness, IV1 1UF

Note to editors: Highland Trading Standards is part of The Highland Council, Transport, Environmental and Community Services, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness

For further information please contact: Mrs Glenys Brown, Trading Standards Officer, Highland Trading Standards Unit, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF Tel: 01463 228717

17 Nov 2008