Sleaford’s Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire has issued some top tips for safe and savvy consumers ahead of the ‘Black Friday’ sales frenzy next week.
In the last year, Citizens Advice consumer service has dealt with almost half a million consumer-related issues like faulty washing machines, undelivered parcels and fake designer goods.
Over 50,000 of these were during November 2018, by far the busiest month for the consumer service.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the busiest shopping weekend of the year - a stock clearance strategy first employed by retailers in the US which spread to the UK a couple of years ago.
With the sales just around the corner, Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire is guiding consumers on how to buy and budget smart.
The Citizen’s Advice service says that even though the prices are reduced, your consumer rights are fully protected.
If you change your mind about a purchase, unless you made your purchase online, shops are not legally required to accept returns for unwanted goods. Despite this, the shop may choose to have its own returns policy. If it does, they must honour it, so it is worth checking your receipt.
If you buy online however, unless it is bespoke or made to measure, by law you will get an automatic 14-day cooling off period. This starts the day after you receive your order, and there does not need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.
If you’re worried your purchase is faulty, you may be entitled to a refund.
You will have legal rights if you unwittingly bought an item that is broken or damaged, unusable, not what was advertised or does not match the seller’s description.
You will have to move quickly, as you only have 30 days to return something that is faulty with the guarantee of getting your money back. Your rights don’t end after 30 days, though after this period the retailer does not necessarily have to refund you, instead they have the option of repairing or replacing the faulty product.
Be careful not to end up with a counterfeit item. Secure websites should start “https” and have a padlock symbol in the taskbar. Be wary of spelling or grammar mistakes, and companies that do ont provide an address.
Also seek out reviews of the seller from other buyers as these can help you decide whether or not you trust the seller. If there is a lot of negative feedback from other people, it is a sign that something is not right.
If you are worried that something you have seen online might be a scam, you can contact you can get advice with a Citizens Advice Scams Action adviser by calling 0300 330 3003.
Alternatively you can visit Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire at the Advice Centre, Money’s Yard in Sleaford
If there’s a problem with your Black Friday delivery, it is the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you.
If the seller used a delivery company, they should chase the company to find out what has happened to your order - it is not your responsibility.
Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact them and ask where your order is.
Tips to stay within your budget:
As well as making sure you are clued up on your consumer rights, do not get roped into buying something you cannot afford. Citizens Advice offers the following tips to make sure you’re staying within your budget:
* Spend time shopping around, researching what deals are on offer and getting advice.
* Always look at the total amount you will have to repay when borrowing money. A shorter repayment period may be better than a slightly lower Annual Percentage Rate (APR) amount.
* Take care when looking at buy-now-pay-later deals. It might seem like a good option but you will need to make sure you pay on time in future. If you do not these deals can be very expensive.
* Never borrow money on the spur of the moment. Think about payment options beforehand. Work out your budget and stick to it so that you can afford the repayments.
Kingsley Taylor at Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire says: “At this time of year many people may feel the pressure to part with their money.
“It is important that anyone thinking about turning to credit or taking out a loan to help pay for purchases understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back.
“If you are struggling with your finances, it is important to do something about it as soon as possible. You can get free debt and money advice from Citizens Advice to find a way forward and avoid spiralling debts.”