Your rights during the sales
Now that Christmas is over, the much-awaited signs advertising the January sales are seen on numerous shop windows. Discounted prices encourage consumers to keep shopping and sometimes also distract them into rushed buying decisions. Hence, to avoid disappointments or waste of hard-earned money, here is some advice to keep in mind during this time.
Same legal rights
Never forget that even though prices go down, your legal rights do not change. Reduced prices do not exempt sellers from their legal obligations. If goods purchased during sales turn out to be defective or not as agreed with the seller, the latter is legally obliged to provide you with a free remedy. Hence, shop signs stating ‘No Returns’ or ‘No Refunds’ cannot be applied by sellers when goods are defective.
Changed return policies
Before concluding a purchase, look out for changed return policies. Such policies are usually applied when consumers change their mind or make a wrong buying decision. These return policies may be suspended or changed during sales.
Defective goods returned during sales
In situations where defective goods are returned during sales, if these were purchased at the full price and cannot be repaired or replaced by the seller, the amount refunded should be the price consumers paid at the time of purchase, not the discounted one. When making such a claim, consumers need to present the proof of purchase to show the amount paid for the defective goods.
Seconds or shop-soiled goods
Sometimes, goods sold at a reduced price are described as ‘seconds’ or ‘shop soiled’. When this is the case, care should be taken to check what the defects or damages are. After doing so, consumers should be in a better position to decide whether it is worthwhile to proceed with the purchase. Consumers should remember that faults brought to their attention before the sale is concluded cannot be complained about afterwards. However, if a different fault develops, the seller is liable to provide a remedy for the hidden defect.
Prices of discounted goods
Prices of goods in shops must always be clearly indicated without any ambiguities. Besides the sales percentage, sellers are legally obliged to indicate the final selling price.
Both sellers and consumers must bear in mind that it is illegal to make discounts appear much higher than they really are. When a shop makes a comparison with previous prices, the previous price should be the last price at which the goods were sold before the sales.
It is also misleading and therefore illegal for shops to display signs advertising that all products have been reduced by a specific percentage, for example 50 per cent, when in reality there are items in the shop that are not on sale or not discounted as advertised.
Misleading adverts and promotions may be reported through the Flag a Concern form, which may be accessed through the MCCAA’s website on https://mccaa.org.mt/home/infringement and also through the authority’s mobile app KONSUMATUR.
Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.