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Christopher Columbus’ journey to the new world in 1492 is celebrashutterstock_325547303ted as a day to remember his epic voyage of discovery and a day to remember our heritage. Many towns hold parades or other festivities in celebration. In the consumer world, however, Columbus Day weekend has become synonymous with shopping and sales.

Consumers use the term “sale” in many different contexts; however what they may not know is that Massachusetts regulations define when a seller can or cannot advertise something as a “sale.”

“Sale” is explicitly defined under the Attorney General’s Retail Advertising Regulations. 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 at $200 or less, and at least 5% below the former price if the former price was more than $200. A retailer may use the term “sale” if the actual former price or the actual reduction, stated as a fraction or percentage of the former price, is clearly and conspicuously disclosed.

Under this definition, selling a car for $19,995 “reduced” from $20,000 cannot be advertised as a sale. Likewise, selling a $200 cell phone at a $10 discount cannot be advertised as “on sale.” Of course, retailers have invented other terminology to circumvent the regulations (think “roll-back prices”), but consumers can be confident knowing this common advertising term provides them with some protections.

For more information on your shopping rights, visit our website.

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 is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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