USLegal Newsletter November 2018 – Read These Legal Tips Before You Go Holiday Shopping

The holiday season is the busiest shopping time of the year as people search for the best deals to buy that special gift for family and friends. USLegal has the following suggestions to help you be better legally protected and for your shopping experience go smoother.

  • Guard against property and identity theft. Be sure to know where your purse, wallet, check book and cash are at all times while walking around stores. Limit the number and types of cards you carry. Debit cards could 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.
  • Take precautions when shopping online. When making 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 also 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 view offers and promotions from there.
  • Keep a receipts file. 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.
  • Understand 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 easier.
  • 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.

6)  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. Read more about warranties under legal definitions below.

For more holiday shopping tips, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.

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Legal Definitions

Full and Limited Warranties

Businesses that choose to provide written warranties may choose from two types: full and limited.

Full Warranties – 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.

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