ShopSmart’s List of Consumer Rights

We get a lot of pitches from magazines trying to get us to get you to read their content. For most, we just click the “spam” button and move on to the next email, but Consumer Report’s ShopSmart, is one of the few emails we keep because their messages are always full of advice and tips that you can use to become an informed shopper.  In this month’s issue, they have an list of 10 consumer issues that you should know before heading out to the stores- answering questions like “Do you have to use the suggested service provider” to “is it illegal to return underwear”. Read the tips below.

10 Consumer Rights and Wrongs from ShopSmart

1. The stuff you order should arrive on time. The federal Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Trade Regulation Rule states that stores must ship telephone, mail, fax and Internet orders within 30 days—or earlier if that’s what the merchant promised. If the retailer has a good reason for not getting your order out on time, it must get your consent for late arrival. If you don’t respond or agree, the order must be cancelled. One exception: If you’re applying for credit along with your order, merchants have 50 days instead of 30.
2. A store does not have to honor the posted price. If a price is mismarked, you are not entitled to what it says on the tag. But, it can’t hurt to complain to the manager to see whether you can finagle a better price.
3. If you paid with a credit card, you can dispute certain charges and get a refund. You have federal credit card chargeback rights for billing errors which includes unauthorized charges, charges for items that were never delivered or were delivered late, as well as items that were misrepresented. The other category is called claims and defenses, and you have up to one year to request a chargeback if you have to cancel a sale directly with the seller for any legal reason, including shoddy merchandise. But the disputed amount must be over $50, you must have made a good-faith effort to obtain a refund or credit, the balance on your card must be at least as much as the disputed amount and the merchant must be in your home state and within 100 miles of your home.
4. You can cancel a sale if you went with a salesperson’s suggestion but aren’t satisfied with the product. The store is technically on the hook for breaching an unwritten “warranty of fitness for a particular purpose,” but it might be difficult to prove your argument, so it’s always best to check product specs and get any assurances in writing before you plunk down your money.
5. “Lifetime warranty” does not mean your lifetime. A “lifetime warranty” doesn’t have a legal definition, although some states may have their own rules. And lifetime warranties don’t always include the entire item and the cost to replace it.
6. You’re not out of luck if the warranty is expired. Unless the store or manufacturer has a policy that says otherwise, products generally come with a state-mandated, unwritten “implied warranty of merchantability” that the item will perform as commonly expected and be free of substantial defects, and that it must last a reasonable amount of time. Although manufacturer warranties and retail Web sites generally disclaim the implied warranty, walk-in retailers rarely do and a handful of states prohibit such disclaimers.
7. You can use any parts or service providers you want without jeopardizing the manufacturer’s warranty. Federal law prevents you from being tied to any particular parts or service providers as a condition of maintaining your warranty. Occasional exceptions crop up when the company can show that the product will not work properly without the specified part or service. One caveat: The manufacturer doesn’t have to cover damage caused by a third-party part or service.
8. Federal law does not prohibit returning pierced earrings, underwear, and swimsuits. The retailer may want you to believe that, and some states have specific laws prohibiting certain returns, but this isn’t a universal retail truth.
9. You’re entitled to a rain check if your supermarket runs out of an advertised product. The federal retail Food Store Rule requires grocers to provide rain checks on advertised items or to substitute an equivalent product. They can get around this by demonstrating they ordered sufficient quantities to meet reasonably anticipated demand or by including a statement in their ad that quantities are limited or that the discounted product is available only in certain stores. The federal law applies only to food stores, but states may have broader rules.
10. Stores are not required to allow returns. Retailers generally can adopt any return policy they want as long as it’s prominently posted at the point of sale. If the policy isn’t posted, some states impose one and, if the product doesn’t work or isn’t what you ordered, the policy doesn’t matter—you have a right to get what you paid for.

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  1. Leeleerae says

    Wow, this is really interesting! Both my friend and I had ordered from one of the online 3day sample sale sites. After a month, our merchandise had not been shipped out. We got refunds, but it was a serious hassle. Perhaps it would have been easier if we quoted this!

  2. says

    Just wanted to comment about #2 – while what you posted is true in the US, in other places (notably Australia) a shop must honor the marked price unless they can claim it’s an obvious misprint. If a $1500 computer was marked $15.00 they don’t have to honor it, but if a $100 pair of jeans are mismarked as on sale for $70 they do, to my knowledge, have to sell it at the marked price. Basically if an average customer would feel the marked price is reasonable enough not to automatically assume it’s an error, that’s the price it would go at.

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