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Shoppers must know their rights

Whether you choose to do your holiday shopping at local retailers or online from the comfort of home, everyone should be aware of their rights as a customer.

According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, there have been more than 25,000 complaints lodged with the AG’s office since January alone, ranging from billing issues, misrepresentation, failure to deliver, poor service/shoddy work, attempt to collect a debt and refund/return issues.

To help avoid these problems, the AG recommends everyone should remember these tips:

• Exclusions and limitations must be clearly disclosed: An offer’s exclusions and limitations must be listed in advertisements, and terms and conditions must be clearly disclosed in close proximity to the offer. Offers found online must follow these same rules.

• Bait-and-switch tactics are prohibited: Sellers may not misrepresent important characteristics of a product or use advertised products as bait to encourage consumers to buy more expensive items.

• Free must really mean free: Sellers may not advertise goods or services as “free” when the cost of the “free” offer is passed on to the consumer through higher base prices.

• Return policies must be disclosed before the sale: Sellers are required to clearly disclose return policies prior to a sale. It is not acceptable to notify consumers of the policy after the transaction is complete.

• No failure to deliver: Sellers may not advertise prompt delivery of goods or services unless they take reasonable steps to ensure prompt delivery. Generally it is deceptive for a seller to accept money and allow eight weeks to pass without delivering the product or providing a refund.

Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice or those who have a consumer problem they cannot resolve on their own should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.