Protect Your Holiday Purchases

12/12/2003

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What would you do if the merchandise you purchased for the holidays turned out to be something totally different than what you ordered or failed to arrive on time? What if you were simply ripped off? To avoid such mishaps this holiday season, the Better Business Bureau offers these tips:

Know Your Rights - By law, retailers – including electronic retailers – are required to ship an order within the time stated on their Web site (or in their ads) or at the time the order is placed. If a company does not promise a time, it must ship the order within 30 days after receiving it. And if the company is unable to ship within the promised time, it is required to say so and allow the consumer to agree to the delay or to cancel the order and receive a prompt refund.

Track Your Purchases – Keep printouts of the Web pages where you placed your orders with details about the transaction, including your e-mails to the retailers and their responses to you, in case you are not satisfied. Keep track of all confirmation numbers and receipts.

Know the Policies – Have a clear understanding of what is involved in making the purchase. Be clear on the price, the company’s refund and return policy, its customer satisfaction policy and customer service contact and the terms of any guarantees.

Pay by Credit Card – Paying with cash, debit cards, ATM cards or electronic funds transfers offers less protection than using a credit card. If you use a credit card, you have the right to dispute the bill and your liability for fraudulent charges is limited to $50 under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Your card issuer may also provide additional warranty rights.

Get Satisfaction – If you have an unsatisfactory shopping experience, the best course of action is to contact the retailer. If it is an e-retailer, look for an address to write to or a phone number to call. If you have never heard of the seller, check the company out with the Better Business Bureau and the state attorney general’s office. If the retailer is not responsive to your communication, file a complaint with the BBB at www.bbb.org.

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