USLegal Newsletter November 2017 – 5 Legal Tips for Holiday Shopping

Two of the busiest and most anticipated shopping days of the year are fast approaching. The day after Thanksgiving is widely known as Black Friday and is marked by retailers pulling out their big sales to mark the start the holiday shopping season. Black Friday falls on November 24th this year followed by Cyber Monday on November 27th when consumers go online in search of best deals. Whether you are purchasing a popular toy, electronic device or more, these legal tips for holiday shopping will help reduce any hassles.

  • Safeguard certain receipts. A receipt is a legal document that acknowledges a purchase has been made and it notes the transaction amount exchanged. It should also include date of purchase and method of payment. Receipts may also include warranty terms and return policies. Stores typically issue paper receipts, gift receipts, and increasingly popular are electronic or email receipts. While many retailers will likely give you store credit on smaller items if you fail to present a receipt for a return, it is not a guarantee. Keeping receipts becomes more important if making a big purchase such as buying electronics or appliances which may also have warranties that require a receipt to make a claim in the event the product is defective. If you don’t like keeping paper receipts the old fashioned way, there are plenty of software options and apps that can assist you in taking photos of your receipts with a cell phone camera to store them in digital files.
  • Be aware of return and exchange policies. Some major retailers have a very liberal policy on store brand items purchased allowing up to a year to return while others limit returns to just 15 days. Many retailers implement special extended refund and exchange policies over the holiday season. Additionally, when making returns, some retailers will only give full credit on new and unopened items and certain items such as electronics might be subjected to restocking fees. Some online retailers make consumers pay shipping fees for returns while others will allow returns for free. It is really up to you as a consumer to take note in order to make the return process smoother.
  • Review terms and conditions before you click it. When making purchases online, there is often a point in the transaction when the retailer requests for you to click “I Agree” to accept terms and conditions prior to purchasing a product or service. This step is referred to as a “clickwrap” or “clickthrough” agreement and it creates a legally binding contract. Consumers often give up certain rights when they agree to terms and conditions in clickwrap agreements including the right to keep their personal data private, the right to sue, or they agree to limit warranties on products. If you have concerns after reviewing terms and conditions, you might want to check with another online retailer to see if they have more favorable policies.
  • Protect credit card and personal information when shopping online and in stores. Identity theft is at an all-time high especially during the holiday season. Be sure to know where your purse, wallet, check book and cash are at all times while walking around stores and you might consider limiting the number and type of cards you carry during the holidays. It might be an advantage to shop with a credit card as opposed to a debit card because the debit card would open up bigger exposure to your bank account if stolen. When selecting a credit card to use, consider the card with your lowest balance limit and/or use a prepaid credit card or gift card as additional steps to limit exposure. When making online purchases through either a lap top or cell phone, make sure you are using a secure connection and be wary of using public WiFi. Since hackers could steal your personal data with phony email offers, take a minute to review any special holiday promotion emails you receive in their entirety and pay attention to the return email address and links included in emails to rest assured it is coming from an authentic source before you click on offers and enter any personal information. If you have any doubts, go to the retailer’s official website to review offers and promotions from there.
  • Read and understand product warranty information. If making a major holiday purchase such as a TV, computer, or appliance, educate yourself on the warranty that comes with the product. Businesses that choose to provide written warranties may choose from two types: full and limited. FTC regulations concerning full warranties are considerably more stringent than those that apply to limited warranties. According to the Magnuson-Moss Act, “fully guaranteed” products or services must meet the following five criteria:
  • Customer receives full money back or replacement or repair of any defective part of product in the event of a complaint
  • Prompt and free repairs
  • If repairs are not fully satisfactory to the buyer, a prompt refund is available
  • Customer has no responsibility beyond reporting the defect to the company
  • Acknowledgment of all implied warranties

Limited warranties, which must be prominently labeled as such, limit the liability of the manufacturer or service provider. A limited warranty may offer to replace defective parts free, but only do so for a limited length of time, or require that the consumer ship the product to a manufacturer-approved service center. The distinctions between full and limited warranties and the obligations of manufacturers to honor them vary from state to state, so it is up to the consumer to carefully read the literature and understand what is covered before the purchase.

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Warranty Law and Legal Definitions


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, although opinions vary somewhat regarding their impact on sales.


For more legal definitions, please visit our free online legal dictionary at