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Twelve Tips to Smart Holiday Shopping

December 02, 2006

New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz reminds consumers to shop wisely on the first day of holiday shopping - and all the days that follow! - whether in the Big Apple or online.

New York City boasts some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country, among them disclosure requirements so you know before you buy what terms and conditions apply to a purchase or return. Bottom line: When buying gifts in the Big Apple, you never should get an "unpleasant surprise."

From the DCA to you, here are twelve important tips to shop by:
1. Know the store's return policy. Retailers can establish their own policies; however, by law, stores must disclose all terms and conditions to an exchange/refund/return, including limitations. If no policy is posted, consumers have a right to a refund within 20 days in the manner in which the purchase was paid.

2. Know if terms and conditions apply to gift cards/certificates. By law, retailers must disclose if terms and conditions apply to store-issued gift cards/certificates. Terms and conditions must be printed on the card/certificate. If the card/certificate includes a toll-free number, terms and conditions may instead be described on the packaging envelope or printed document. Monthly fees within one year, or any retroactive fees, are illegal.

3. Know an item's original price for comparison to its sale price. By law, retailers must prominently disclose this information.
When Buying Online

4. Never reveal your social security number, mother's maiden name, or former address.

5. Double-check delivery and shipping information. By law, a company must ship your Internet purchase within the time stated or within 30 days if no time is specified.

6. Shop with companies you know. Be wary of companies that don't offer telephone numbers to get more information.

7. Use a credit card for added purchasing protection (if you have a choice). The Fair Credit Billing Act makes it easier to challenge
billing errors and dispute charges for unsatisfactory goods or services. When Buying Electronics

8. Look for a DCA license. Stores selling or repairing electronics - e.g., computers, audio/video/photo equipment, cell phones - in New
York City require a DCA license.

9. Beware of used items sold as new. By law, secondhand items must be marked "used," "floor model," "rebuilt," or "refurbished."

10. Avoid bait and switch. By law, advertised deals must be available at the advertised price.

11. Double-check if the item is a gray market good (manufactured for sale outside the United States). Ensure the product is compatible for use in the United States. Be aware that warranties for gray market goods are often worthless locally. Last but Not Least.

12. Always get a receipt and save it! By law, you must get a receipt for purchases greater than $20. Receipts must include: itemization of purchases and a separate statement of tax; make, model, and accessories (if an audio/video/photo purchase); delivery date and cost (if the item is to be shipped); price, carat weight, and description of item (if a jewelry purchase exceeding $75).

For more information, including free consumer and business guides, or to file a complaint, Dial 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside the City) or visit the DCA online at www.nyc.gov/consumers .

Happy holiday shopping!
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs