Because consumers rely heavily on ads for information and to help them comparison shop for merchandise, it’s important that advertisements be correct and accurate. The Office of Consumer Protection, a division of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, has developed advertising rules as guidelines for businesses to follow when they advertise products and services.
Here are some tips from these rules which may help you avoid being misled or deceived:
- A store cannot use the word “sale” unless the advertised price is less than the seller’s regular price.
- The merchant must clearly and conspicuously identify the merchandise that is on sale so as not to confuse or mislead the buyer.
- The merchant must have a starting and closing date for the sale.
- A merchant may not advertise a price as wholesale, when it is a retail sale.
When a gift is offered “free” with purchase (such as cosmetic kits that come with a minimum purchase of other cosmetic products and “buy one get one free” offer), the merchant may not raise the price of the regular product so as to cover the cost of the free gift.
Consumers have the right to expect that items advertised are available in sufficient quantity to meet reasonable demand, unless the specific quantity available is listed in the ad. Merchants are not required by law to provide “rain checks” for advertised items that are sold out, however, some do as a convenience for the customers.
Generally, you should avoid buying goods “sight unseen,” and most especially from people you don’t know.
And when ordering merchandise, do not sign contracts or give money to anyone, unless you know exactly what you are buying and unless you have some assurance that the item does exist and that it will be delivered to you in a timely fashion. It is always preferable to have a local representative available, whom you can contact, if something goes wrong.