ATTENTION HOLIDAY SHOPPERS!
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS & PROTECT YOURSELF
FROM ILLEGAL GIFT CARD FEES, ONLINE TRAPS, AND MORE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 30, 2004
The New York City Department of Consumer
Affairs (DCA) wants to remind New Yorkers looking to beat
the holiday rush to be careful when purchasing gift certificates
or gift cards, shopping online, and more.
To protect consumers and help make informed
choices, the DCA offers the following tips along the sometimes
bumpy road to holiday gift shopping. The DCA urges New Yorkers
to file complaints by calling 311, the Citys 24-hour
hotline, or online at www.nyc.gov/consumers.
To file a complaint, check if a business
is licensed, or request a free copy of What You Need to
Know About Employment Agencies, call 311 or visit the DCA
online at www.nyc.gov/consumers
GIFT CERTIFICATES / GIFT CARDS
Last year consumers nationwide purchased
an estimated $45 billion worth of gift certificates and
gift cards. That number is sure to increase this year due
to its growing popularity and ease of purchase. New York
laws protect consumers from the pitfalls of hidden fees
and unclear terms and conditions.
Posting requirements. By law, retailers
- including online - must disclose all terms and conditions
(i.e. limitations, fees, expiration dates, etc.) for gift
certificates or gift cards with conspicuously posted signs.
Retailers have the option to list terms and conditions
on the gift certificate/card envelope or a separate piece
of paper, but only if there is also a toll-free number
on the gift certificate or card.
Illegal fees. Retailers are prohibited
from charging any retroactive fees for gift certificates/cards,
and any monthly fees on cards that are used within one
- Always Get a Receipt and Save It. Under New York Citys
Consumer Protection Law, you are entitled to a receipt
for purchases over $20. Upon request, you can also get
a receipt for purchases between $5 and $20. All receipts
must include the total amount paid, date, business name
and address, the make and model of the item you bought,
and license number if applicable. Saving receipts is only
way to guarantee an exchange or return can be made for
the full price.
- Ask for a Gift Receipt. Some stores will issue gift
receipts for purchases, allowing the person who receives
the gift to make an exchange. The price is not listed
on gift receipts, but the original sale is maintained
in the store's computer.
- Know the Refund or Exchange Policy. Merchants can establish
their own policies, so long as it is prominently displayed.
If no policy is posted, the retailer must give the consumer
20 days to get a refund in the manner in which the purchase
was paid. Some merchants extend their refund periods to
facilitate holiday returns.
Shop with companies you know. Be wary
of companies that dont offer a phone number where
you can get more information.
Learn a companys online privacy
site. It should disclose the information being collected
on the site and how that information is being used - including
account numbers and other personal information. If you
cant find a policy, send an email or written message
to the site to ask about its policy and request that it
be posted on the site.
Never give out your social security number,
mothers maiden name, or former address online.
Delivery and purchase protection. By law,
a company must ship your Internet purchase within the
time stated or within 30 days if no time is specified.
For consumers using their credit cards to make purchases,
the Fair Credit Billing Act offers additional protection.
The Act makes it easier to challenge billing errors and
dispute charges for unsatisfactory goods or services.
If you feel uncomfortable giving out your credit card
information over the Internet, shop online to choose what
you want, and then order it over the phone.
PHOTOCOPYING CONSUMER IDENTIFICATION
Be wary of retailers that require a photocopy
of your personal identification. By law, if a retailer
requires a copy of a consumers personal identification,
this demand must be clearly stated in the retailers
credit card policy and displayed clearly. While it is
not illegal to photocopy identification, doing so can
increase the risk of identity theft. DCA strongly advises
consumers not to allow retailers to photocopy personal
information from their drivers license while shopping,
regardless of the type of purchase.
POSTING CREDIT CARD LIMITATIONS
Stores selling electronics in NYC - computers, video/photo/audio
equipment, cell phones and more - must be licensed by the
- Know the warranty. If you are sold a defective product,
you may be able to get a replacement or refund if the
warranty says so. Always think before buying expensive
additional warranties. Warranties for gray market goods
especially - merchandise manufactured for sale outside
the United States - are often worthless.
- Avoid bait and switch. If a store offers a special
deal, they must supply what they advertise, at the advertised
- Watch out for used items sold as new. An item may look
new, but it could be used or rebuilt. Any product that
has been used must be marked "used," "floor
model," "rebuilt" or "refurbished."
- Look for the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price
(MSRP). Electronics stores must inform customers if they
are charging more than the price suggested by the manufacturer
of the item. You can check the MSRP for most items ahead
of time by calling the manufacturer's toll-free number.
If you shop around you should find prices at or below
- Requirements for jewelry items that cost $75 or more.
Retailers that sell jewelry (i.e. rare gems, precious
stones, and semi-precious stones) for more than $75 must
give consumers a written sales slip that includes: price,
weight of diamond (if applicable), and a description of
item with all materials including whether it is imitation
- Laws protecting against deceptive practices. Retailers
and appraisers are prohibited by law from misleading consumers
about any jewelry characteristics including size, grade,
quality, substance, origin, prior ownership, price, value,
- Jewelers selling estate items must be licensed as second-hand
dealers by the DCA.