Consumer Rights and Responsibilities
Whether shopping for new shoes, a car or home repairs, consumers should be aware of their rights and responsibilities in the marketplace. The following information may help make your shopping hassle-free.
Refunds and Exchanges
True or False: I am entitled to return merchandise to the place of purchase for a refund or exchange.
FALSE. In most cases, sales are final. Always ask about a store’s refund and exchange policy before purchasing a product. Unless the merchandise is defective, refunds and exchanges are a matter of store policy.
When purchasing a gift, remember to ask about the store’s policy regarding refunds and exchanges on returned items.
- Do not assume you have the right to a refund or exchange.
- If you want an exchange or refund, all merchandise should be returned as soon as possible and be in good condition.
- Ask about a store’s refund and exchange policy before you buy.
- Keep all receipts. The seller will require proof of purchase for a refund or exchange.
- A refund may come in the form of a credit note.
- Some sellers may keep a portion of the refund as a service fee or as a restocking charge.
- In the case of faulty or defective merchandise, the seller has the option of repairing, replacing or giving a refund by means of either cash or credit.
True or False: After making a deposit for merchandise, my money will be returned if I decide not to buy the product.
FALSE. A deposit on a product is an amount paid as a first installment towards the full purchase price. It usually means you have entered into a contract. If you change your mind, the seller can keep the money from the deposit or require you to pay the balance of the contract.
In a layaway plan, goods are bought and possession taken at a later date. Before purchasing merchandise on a layaway plan, make sure you know the amount to be paid before the goods are delivered. Some sellers require full payment before delivery. Be sure to get all terms of the agreement in writing.
Credit costs cannot be charged until you receive the goods. As well, ask if there are additional charges. Remember, if you change your mind, you may forfeit all the money paid toward the purchase of the goods.
When buying merchandise that is to be delivered, you should:
- Get the delivery date in writing; and
- Make sure that all conditions are included in the agreement. For example, it could be agreed that the buyer can cancel the order if the merchandise is not delivered by a specific date.
An estimate is a “reasonably accurate guess of the cost of performing a particular service for a paying customer.” Here are a few helpful hints to remember when getting an estimate:
- The estimate should be in writing and outline the work to be done, the brand name, quantity, grades and colour of materials to be supplied, labour specifications, total cost, amount of deposit and a beginning and completion date, as well as a date for progress payments, if any;
- Getting estimates from more than one source before getting work done can save you money and time;
- When discussing the details of an estimate, make sure you and the seller understand each other’s proposals and conditions;
- Shop around – get several estimates and remember – the lowest price isn’t necessarily the best deal. Think about quality and value for money;
- Ask knowledgeable friends or relatives if prices quoted are realistic;
- Ask for references and check them out;
- Determine whether there is a separate cost for an estimate; and
- As a general rule, once an agreement is signed, it becomes a contract at an agreed price and you may not be able to cancel or change it.
Work Completion Dates
Everyone who hires a contractor wants the work completed properly and on schedule. The following are a few hints which may help you achieve this goal:
In cases where unforeseen circumstances increase the cost beyond the agreed price, be sure your written authorization is requested, and given, before proceeding.
- Obtain a detailed written agreement from the contractor including starting and completion dates;
- Consult the Consumer Protection Office or your lawyer regarding your right to hold back monies concerning home improvement agreements. The Builders’ Liens Act entitles you to hold back 7.5% of the total cost of work, services and materials for 40 days after the contractor has finished the job;
- Before making final payment, obtain proof that any sub-contractors have been paid. If not, you could be faced with double payment for the same work; and
- Be aware that some agreements require that the supplier or contractor be paid progress payments.
If you have any questions or problems or if you would like more information, contact:
Consumer Protection OfficeTelephone (Winnipeg and area): 204-945-3800
302-258 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0B6
Toll-free within Manitoba: 1-800-782-0067