Free gift coupons, discount vouchers
Everyone loves saving money, and when we actually manage to do so we also like to brag about it with friends and colleagues.
Leafing through magazines, we tend to cut out any discount coupons we come across to use on our next purchase.
Discount vouchers are also very often handed to us when we attend public events or when simply walking down busy streets. These kind of vouchers can be found practically everywhere.
Since these vouchers are usually given to us for free, we may close one eye if, when using them, the seller does not give us exactly what is promised on the coupon or voucher.
The free gift may not be as promised on the voucher or there may be additional terms and conditions we were not informed about. When this happens, we have rights and can therefore insist with the seller on what is being promoted on the coupon.
With regard to terms and conditions, we should know that businesses are entitled to attach all terms and conditions they deem fit. However, these should be fully disclosed to the recipients of the vouchers when handed to them.
On the other hand, we have the responsibility to look out for these terms and conditions and read them carefully before making up our mind as to whether we should or should not use the voucher.
These terms and conditions usually specify the retail outlet the voucher is redeemable from and also provide a description of what the offer is about, such as the discount percentage or the actual sum of money to be saved. The offer could also be a free gift if a specific amount of money is spent.
The requirement to spend a minimum amount of money to claim a prize or discount is quite common with such vouchers. It is important that we are aware of such clauses, because if we are not ready to spend this stipulated amount of money, we would be wasting our time.
Other popular conditions are an expiry date and a clause stating that the offer is valid until stocks last. There may also be a limitation on usage. For instance, a voucher that entitles us to two cinema tickets for the price of one may have the condition that the ticket cannot be used on weekends and public holidays.
Most of the time, we also find a clause that the discount or offer cannot be used in conjunction with other offers, such that two discount vouchers cannot be used together in one purchase.
We should be fully aware of these conditions before we are tempted to take up any promised offers.
If we eventually decide to make use of these vouchers, we should remember that even though we have not purchased the discount voucher, we are still legally entitled to get what is promised on the voucher.
Even terms and conditions on how to use the voucher cannot be arbitrarily amended or changed without prior notice to consumers. It is in sellers’ best interest to give what they promise. Otherwise they would end up damaging their business. A bad reputation can kill a business.
As to our legal rights, when a seller does not honour the terms and conditions of discount vouchers, we should first try to resolve our concerns with the business. It could simply be the case that the salesperson was not informed about the current offer.
In these situations, we should try to speak to someone who has the authority to make things happen and give us what is rightfully ours.
If, after discussing the matter with the seller we are still not satisfied with the reply or solution offered to us, we should take up our complaint with the Office for Consumer Affairs at the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.
Ms Vella is senior information officer, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.