Thursday, 2 April 2015

Look out for the danger signs this Easter

"Don't let a lack of information on refund and exchange policies ruin your Easter,"  warns Geoff Johns, your local trading standards officer.

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IF, like me you love chocolate, Easter eggs can bring unmitigated joy and pleasure, for the old, the young - even diabetics! But, in this upcoming holiday season, for every happy bunny, there's always some unlucky person who ends up with a raw deal - which can all too easily end in petty arguments, family feuds, divorce - and ultimately, prison and financial ruin.
Every year we see problems for the consumer, so a little preparatory advice here - from your local Trading Standards Department - can go along way to solving any issues you may have when buying and consuming Easter-promoted comestible and perishable goods.

                                                            UNWANTED EGGS

ONE seasonal Easter 'chestnut' for consumers is buying an unwanted egg. We've all had it happen to us; say your Grandma has bought you a cheap 99p egg from Woolworths, without realising that decimalization occurred in 1969.   You wanted a more upmarket, modern egg - perhaps made of Swiss or Polish chocolate.  Returning this egg or exchanging it for another can prove to be a real headache. So here's a few golden rules to help you survive the Easter holiday.

LESSON 1:  Are you ready to be shocked?  Because that is what   many people are when they realise that if the egg is wrongly chosen (rather than having a fault), the shop that sold it to you has NO legal obligation to refund or replace them. Unfortunately, every Easter we deal with literally several disappointed consumers who discover this problem to their cost.
The Sale of Goods Act 1868 lays down the rights of the customer and details the requirement that goods bought must be of a 'satisfactory quality.'    
This unfortunately means free from faults rather than unwanted or unsuitable for the recipient.
So, what can you do about this glaring loophole when you purchase your chocolate eggs?

Well, in order to be vigilant, you need to have an action plan drawn up on your kitchen (or dining room, any EU approved height regulation) table before you even THINK about heading out for the shops.
Point 1 makes the first vital step - you need to discuss the shop's exchange and refund policy when buying an Easter egg.   Upon, entering the premises, immediately inform the retailer that you intend to purchase one (or several) Easter eggs (a) gift(s).
Firmly establish with said retailer that, if it proves unsuitable, you can return the item(s) for a refund, or perform a suitable exchange.
If the shop agrees to this, identify the name and position of the person you spoke to to confirm your agreement, or better still, get the retailer or manager to confirm the policy on the back of your receipt. e.g. 'Will exchange or refund if unwanted or returned unused,' should suffice.
This statement or agreement will, in effect, create a contract between you and the shop, and will allow you to pursue the retailer for a suitable refund or exchange, or take your case to the Small Claims Court, or, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights.
As you are escorted out of the shop, pat yourself on the back that for having had such foresight!
LESSON 2:  The other area of concern for consumers is whether the egg you are purchasing is safe - especially when dealing with imported confectionaries.
All chocolate eggs must conform to standardised European safety regulations, and should bear the 'CE' or 'Communaute Europeene' mark.
Before buying, you must of course also look out for all the safety marks listed at the bottom of this page; the British 'Lion Mark', and the British Standards Institute (BSI) kite marks on safety standards, quality and performance.
If your egg does not feature ALL of these marks, my advice is to throw the chocolate away - as that is the only measure you can take that will ensure complete safety.
Better still, drop off your unwanted eggs at your nearest Trading Standards Office with a concise explanation of when and where you purchased the goods.
I do hope my tips will help you enjoy a happy Easter holiday, and ensure that you come through this sometimes dangerous holiday period unscathed!

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