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The Holiday Season is upon us. Over the next few weeks as the holiday music plays and decorations are put up, consumers will be visiting malls and websites hoping to purchase the perfect gift for their family member or friend. In fact, the National Retail Federation expects consumer spending to rise by as much as 4.1% from last year.

 

Black Friday provides consumers with an opportunity to get a head start on their holiday shopping while enjoying some of the best prices of the year. However, in the rush to get the latest toy or electronic device, consumers may forget the protections provided to them under Massachusetts Law. To assist the estimated 116 million consumers who will be shopping this weekend, we’ve put together some important tips to keep in mind:

 

Terms to know:

  • Sale: For the term “sale” to be used in an ad when the actual savings are not stated, the law requires the savings to be at least 10% for items regularly priced $200 or less, and at least 5% for items over $200.
  • Rain Check: A store that has run out of an advertised special must allow you to buy the product at the advertised price when it is in stock again, unless specified in the ad that quantities may be limited or unless the demand was more than could reasonably have been anticipated. The store can also offer a comparable substitute for the out of stock item.
  • Layaway: A store must disclose its policy on layaway plans, including cancellation and return (or non-return) of payments already made. Merchants cannot change the price of merchandise by increasing payments or by substituting lower priced merchandise.
  • Warranty: In Massachusetts, all goods are covered by an implied warranty of merchantability, meaning the item must reasonably conform to an ordinary buyer’s expectation for a reasonable amount of time. A toaster that does not toast would not conform to this warranty and would be eligible for a repair, refund, or replacement.

 

Tips to Save Big:

  • Make a list. Going into the Black Friday abyss and purchasing items at random can turn big saving into big spending very quickly. Have a plan of what you need to buy to avoid purchasing things that you don’t need simply because they are at a good price.
  • Plan a budget. The goal of all stores participating in Black Friday sales is to compel shoppers to spend money at their store. Although it may seem like it at the time, credit cards aren’t free money, and you will need to pay your balances.
  • Put credit card rewards to use. Cash back credit cards can give you big returns on your purchases. But be sure you know your spending limit and your interest rate.
  • Compare prices.Spending a little time upfront to research prices can make a huge difference. Don’t be afraid to ask a retailer if they will match a competitor’s prices either (provided the stores are reasonably similar). It may be beneficial to bring a copy of the ad with you as proof!
  • Understand return policies and save your receipts! There is no set law on return policies in Massachusetts. Make sure you know if you can return items that don’t fit or aren’t needed before you purchase them so you don’t get stuck spending money on things you can’t use!

 

This post is part of our “Holiday Shopping” series, bringing you timely information as you shop this holiday season.  For more information on your shopping rights, visit our website: https://www.mass.gov/guides/a-massachusetts-consumer-guide-to-shopping-rights

 

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs, and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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