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Buying gifts this Christmas? Do your homework in five easy steps

Most of us are already thinking of what gifts to buy for Christmas. Before making a buying decision we usually think of different products our loved ones may like or need. If we have some time to spare, we may opt to visit different shops or even browse online selling websites to get some gift ideas and compare deals.

When shopping around we should take the necessary precautions to ensure that the product we are interested in buying does not cause harm to the person it is intended for. In order to ascertain this, we must:

Ensure suitability of the product to its recipient – This means that before we buy a product, we need to make sure that that product is suitable for the person we are buying it for. As an example, if we are going to buy a toy for a two-year-old toddler, we should not buy something which is marked as unsuitable for children aged under three. So watch out for such a symbol in this case.

Check whether the product needs to be CE marked – Most consumer non-food products, ranging from toys to electrical and electronic equipment, as well as construction products, need to carry the CE mark. This mark is affixed by the manufacturer to demonstrate that the product satisfies the essential health and safety requirements of the applicable EU directives. So if we buy these products, they have to have the symbol shown below.

Other products, such as childcare articles, clothes and furniture should not be CE marked.

Check whether the product you have chosen is found on Rapex – Unsafe products across the EU are notified on Rapex, so that all consumers and economic operators are aware of these products. The MCCAA regularly sends lists of notified products to known economic operators in Malta so that these products are removed from the shelves and do not pose a risk to consumers.

Consumers and economic operators can search the Rapex database as it is part of public domain. The database can be found through the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/?event=main.listNotifications.

Check the product – When at the shop or even when browsing a product online, we should check the product to see if there is anything doubtful when it comes to safety.

We must ensure that there are instructions in English and/or in Maltese; that if the product requires the CE mark, this is affixed properly on the product; check that the brand name is shown on the product and also if some parameters, such as electrical voltage and type of current, are shown on the product.

If in doubt, raise the issue with the salesperson assisting with the sale.

If in doubt ask the MCCAA – The MCCAA is the consumer watchdog in Malta, and investigates complaints raised by consumers and economic operators with regards to the safety of products when these are placed on the market.

Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

odette.vella@mccaa.org.

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