As many shoppers prepare to face the high street or go online to find that perfect gift, North East Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards officers are reminding local people to stay savvy in the run-up to Christmas.
It comes as the big day approaches and people are shopping around to find the best bargains – but remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. That’s why Trading Standards are asking people to not get caught out by cheap, fake goods.
No one wants to unwrap a fake on Christmas morning, particularly one that will be shoddy, poor quality and often dangerous and unsafe – putting loved ones lives at risk in the case of fake electrical items.
However, with many struggling to pay the bills, Christmas could be an added pressure to an already tight budget, and you may opt for a cheap, too good to be true, present.
How can I reduce the risk of buying a fake product?
To remove the risk, there’s a number of precautions you can take such as:
- Buying from a reputable supplier
- The Brand-I website can help www.brand-i.org as it allows you to search for legitimate sellers of branded items so shoppers can be sure they’re buying a genuine item rather than a cheaply-made replica
- To check if an item is genuine, you can look at the packaging. Legitimate goods will usually be protectively marked and feature the safety mark
- Always ask for a receipt, and check that the seller accepts returns within a certain timeframe
If you suspect the authenticity of branded items being sold, you can report it to Trading Standards through Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506. Or visit www.brand-i.org to check the authenticity of the retailer and report unauthorised sellers.
Experts have also warned that unscrupulous lenders could try to cash in on the festive period as households struggle to cope with rising food, fuel and energy bills.
Loan sharks are targeting vulnerable people seeking credit and trapping them into a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates and threats of violence.
Figures released by the England Illegal Money Lending Team show that nearly one in ten of those who borrowed money from loan sharks last year did so to cover the costs of Christmas.
If you’re worried about a friend or family member who is being taken advantage of by a loan shark, contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222 for support or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Find out on this, as well as safety tips, here: www.stoploansharks.co.uk/fears-over-debt-as-more-people-could-turn-to-loan-sharks-to-cover-christmas/
Ten top tips for avoiding problems with goods and traders:
- Shop around for the best deals. You cannot return something just because you have found the product cheaper elsewhere.
- Ask for a gift receipt. It is usually the purchaser of goods, and not the person who receives them as gifts, who has consumer rights if they turn out to be faulty. However, shops may agree to sign over these rights to the person receiving the gift, so ask the shop if they will give a ‘gift receipt’.
- Make sure goods work properly and are not damaged before you wrap them.
- Hang onto your receipts. Traders are entitled to ask for some proof of purchase if you return faulty goods.
- Know who you are dealing with. Your rights are the same wherever you buy goods, whether you buy from a high street shop, a market trader, a street trader with a suitcase or from a temporary bargain shop. However, your chances of returning goods diminish if there’s a possibility that traders might not be around after Christmas.
- Know what you’re buying. Goods bought in a sale should perform the same as if they were priced normally, and your rights are the same unless defects are brought to your attention before you buy or should have been obvious if you’d examined the goods.
- Buy the right size and colour. If there’s nothing wrong with the item and you simply made a mistake or changed your mind, then you have no legal rights. Some retailers do have goodwill policies allowing these returns, so ask before you buy and get them to write the details on the receipt.
- Consider buying goods costing over £100 with a credit card, because you may get extra protection from the card issuer.
- Know how much credit costs. Don’t make any spur-of-the-moment decisions to buy on credit and never use illegal lenders. Compare interest rates, consider the total cost involved and how long you’ll have to pay. You don’t want to still be paying for this year’s gifts next Christmas.
- Watch out for fake goods. Only buy from reputable retailers. Counterfeit spirits can contain high levels of methanol which can pose a serious health risk. Be suspicious of cheap CDs, DVDs, designer clothes, electrical items and perfumes.