US Legal, Inc. Newsletter – November 2007

Five Legal Tips for Stress Free Holiday Shopping

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The holiday shopping season is underway and store and online sales are expected to be brisk. The exchange of goods between retailers and consumers creates a host of contractual issues. USLegal offers the following five suggestions to help keep your spirits bright.

1) Make note of store return policies. Return policies can typically be found on store receipts, on signs posted near checkout registers, or on website pages. Major retailers and online businesses are often willing to provide full refunds for items purchased if they are returned in new condition and original receipts or gift receipts are provided. However, retailers typically allow only a certain period of time for an item to be brought back to a store or shipped back if purchased through the Internet, such as 90 days. It is also growing more common for stores to charge consumers a restocking fee for certain items which are returned, such as electronics, which lowers the amount of a refund. If you can not produce a receipt, some stores are willing to provide store credit, but it depends on the merchant. If the store or website says “all sales are final” or “absolutely no refund” or similar language, then the retailer is putting consumers on notice that no refunds, exchanges, or store credit will be provided. Also note that often times if you bought an item online and need to return it, you will be responsible for paying the costs of shipping. Bottom line, if you have a question about making a return, be sure to ask a store associate before you purchase the item.

2) Protect your personal information when shopping online. The potential for identity theft and fraud can increase when transmitting personal information, such as credit card numbers, over the Internet. Make sure you purchase items from reputable websites that have strong security (encryption software) available for processing credit card transactions. Also, beware of companies who ask for information such as you social security number, bank account number, or your date of birth as this information is unnecessary when completing a standard online purchase.

3) Learn some basics about warranties. A product or service warranty (also known as guarantee) is a promise, from a manufacturer or seller, to stand behind the product or service. It is a statement about the integrity of the product and about the seller’s commitment to correct problems should the product or service fail. Product and service warranties have become standard practice in most U.S. industries. Consumers can ask the courts to enforce warranties, whether they are express, implied, written, verbal, or given in any other way. Federal, state, and local government entities establish the regulatory basis upon which warranties are judged. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the ultimate arbiter of warranty law in the United States. The FTC’s primary tool in monitoring product and service guarantees is the Magnuson-Moss Consumer Warranty Act.

4) If item is sold out, ask for a rain check. It happens a lot during the holidays that a store may run out of a popular item, especially if it is advertised at a substantial discount price. If you really want the item, you can ask a store employee if the item is available at another store in your area or ask for a rain check. A rain check is typically a slip of paper which states the store will honor the bargain price at a later date when it has the item back in stock. Keep in mind that rain checks may not be provided if an item is advertised “quantities are limited” or “while supplies last.”

5) Keep a paper trail. Make sure to keep all store receipts and product warranty information in the event items need to be returned or exchanged. Also, be sure to print and keep track of online sales confirmation notices. Having a receipt is the best record that an authorized transaction has taken place. Producing receipts may also help reduce questions about whether an item was actually purchased from a store, as shoplifting is a major concern to retailers this time of year.

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In Brief

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All of us at USLegal would like to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!

Law and Legal Definitions

Warranty Law and Legal Definition

Warranties may be either express or implied. Express warranties are created by affirmative acts of the seller that are an affirmation of fact or promise made by the seller which relates to the goods and becomes part of the basis of the bargain. Express warranties can be created when the seller describes the goods or furnishes samples. Express warranties create strict liability for the seller, so that negligence need not be proven. In general, express warranties are based on factual statements rather than opinions about the future. An exception is made when it is a professional opinion which can create a warranty. Under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which has been adopted in some form by almost all states, liability for breach of warranty is based on seller status. Manufacturer, distributor, and retailer could all be jointly and severally liable, so that the full amount of damages could be collected from one or any of them. The distributor and retailer may be able to escape liability if the manufacturer is not bankrupt. Purchasers, consumers, users, and even bystanders are entitled to sue in most states for breach of warranty.

Under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which has been adopted in some form by almost all states, there are implied warranties in every sales transaction that the goods sold are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used. This is called the “implied warranty of merchantability”. Under the implied warranty of merchantability, the good sold: Are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used, would pass without

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objection in the trade, is adequately packaged, labeled, and contained, conforms to the promises made in the label.

There may also be an “implied warranty of fitness for a particular use”. This warranty is created when: At the time of sale, the seller has reason to know the uses the buyer has for the goods, and the buyer relies on the seller’s judgment in selecting the goods. This implied warranty is not created if the buyer’s knowledge of the goods is as great as the seller, or the buyer has a professional consultant. The buyer supplies specifications to the seller.

Elements of a Warranty

The Federal Trade Commission requires that written warranties bestowed in connection with the sale of a product or service explicitly detail the following information:

1) Who is covered by the warranty
2) Length of warranty
3) Description of the products, parts, properties, or characteristics covered by or excluded from the warranty
4) Steps for customer in the event that warranty coverage comes into play
5) Warrantor’s response when confronted with product/service malfunctions, defects, or failures
6) Any exclusions of or limitations on relief such as incidental or consequential damages
7) Statement that indicates that some states do not allow such exclusions or limitations
8) Statement of consumer legal rights
9) Any limitations on the length of implied warranties, if possible

For more legal definitions, please visit our free online legal dictionary at http://definitions.uslegal.com/.

Customer Feedback

USLegal.com would like to hear from you. If you have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions about our products or topics you’d like for us to feature in upcoming newsletters, please email them to Carrie Criado, Director of Public Relations, at carrie.criado@uslegal.com.