Christmas Special: Ten Top Tips from Coventry Trading Standards - 13 December 2017

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Christmas Special: Ten Top Tips from Coventry Trading Standards - 13 December 2017

In this issue:

Don't be duped this Christmas: Ten top tips for residents

Merry Christmas

To help residents avoid those unpleasant surprises over Christmas and the festive season, Coventry Trading Standards have compiled a list of our ten top Christmas Tips.

1. Buying Online - In most cases, if you shop online you have a right to cancel and receive a full refund, even if you just don’t like the goods or have simply changed your mind. You normally have 14 days to cancel a contract unless the goods have been made specifically for you. Know who you are buying from and make sure you know where the trader is based. Check that online retailers are safe; ensure that the locked padlock symbol is visible when paying and be wary of websites that ask for personal information and are not high street names.

2. Faulty goods - You have statutory rights if goods you have purchased are faulty or not fit for purpose. Try to keep receipts or email confirmations as it will help if things go wrong and don’t delay in complaining. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 stores must offer a full refund if a faulty item is returned within 30 days.

3. Unwanted gifts - Your statutory rights do not apply if you simply changed your mind. However, many shops have their own returns policy or offer a gift receipt, particularly when it comes to Christmas gifts, so you may find the shop is willing to refund or exchange your unwanted item without question. This does not impact in anyway your legal rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Check out the store’s returns policy before you buy. Remember, if you bought online, you may have additional rights - see above.

4. Product safety - Be safe this Christmas whether you are looking to buy Christmas lights, electrical goods as presents or even an extra heater to keep you warm. Make sure that your intended purchases have a CE mark, the manufacturer's identity or mark, ensure that it has a 3 pin plug, and more complex items should have warnings and instructions for use supplied. The same advice applies to all toys, whether they are large expensive items or pocket money 'stocking fillers'.

5. Fakes - In the current financial climate you may be tempted by a product for sale at a cheaper price. But, watch out, counterfeit goods are shoddy imitations and will leave people out of pocket and could cause serious harm. Fake electrical goods can cause fires and electrocution whilst cosmetics such as make up may have high lead levels. Counterfeit DVDs are often of poor quality, some may even be blank, and computer software may not work. Counterfeit alcohol such as vodka may contain dangerous chemicals which can cause health problems such as blindness and fake tobacco often contains unknown chemicals and higher tar levels. Fake cigarettes can also be a fire risk as they do not burn out like legitimate products.

6. Buying goods on your credit card - Use a credit card for items costing over £100 as you get additional protection even if you only use your card to pay a small amount. The credit card company may have to step in If something goes wrong and the trader won’t help. Make sure you pay it off in January to avoid interest charges.

7. Christmas loans - Some people may look to borrow in order to afford Christmas and may even resort to using loan sharks. These illegal money lenders are unlicensed and operate outside the law. They not only take advantage of vulnerable borrowers but also bring disrepute to legitimate lenders and charge extortionate rates of interest. You must be certain if you are borrowing money that it is only coming from a reputable lender. Do you understand exactly what you are signing up to and what will happen if your financial situation gets worse? If you are in a circumstance where you have a bad credit history but are in need of a loan, consider seeking support from a Credit Union who can provide an effective and viable alternative to the so called ‘pay day lenders.’

To find your local credit union visit or call the Association of British Credit Unions (Abcul) on 0161 832 3694.

8. Call out charges - Not everything runs smoothly at Christmas. If you have to call out a tradesman for an emergency repair during this festive season make sure you know what the ‘call out’ or ‘minimum charge’ will be before you agree. Make sure you both understand what work will be carried out, what it will cost (or how it will be calculated) and when and how the trader expects payment. A trader must provide an invoice or receipt showing full details of work carried out, including any parts supplied, labour and other costs. A trader must make any "call out" charge or "minimum charge" known to the customer prior to a visit being made. Remember, some home insurance policies may cover emergencies!

9. Charity collectors - Whilst most charity collectors are genuine, sadly some people try and take advantage of the public's generosity, especially during the season of goodwill. If you are in any doubt about the legitimacy of a charity collector or a collection bag delivered thorough your door, check the charity's name and registration number. You can find these on the Charity Commission's website at

10. Doorstep selling - Make sure you know your rights when people call at your door. Legislation applies to any contract where goods or services (with some exceptions) are supplied costing over £42 to a consumer, that is signed by the consumer at their home. The Regulations provide a fourteen day cooling off period and require cancellation rights to be clearly and prominently displayed. 

These warnings may seem extreme in some cases but experience shows that many people could be ripped off or injured by poor quality gifts over the festive period. Be careful what you buy this Christmas and where you buy it from.

Trading Standards wish you all a happy and safe Christmas.

For more information on scams, visit:

How to report scams