COLUMBUS -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine encouraged consumers to remember their rights and watch for potential scams while shopping this holiday season.
"Understanding your rights as a consumer can help you avoid scams and make the most of holiday shopping," Attorney General DeWine said. "We want to help consumers identify potential problems, and we encourage them to contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office if they need help."
Since January, the Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section has received more than 24,600 complaints involving a variety of issues. Top problem areas include billing, misrepresentation, failure to deliver, poor service or shoddy work, and refund problems.
To avoid problems in consumer transactions, Attorney General DeWine offers consumers the following advice:
Check the exclusions and limitations of an offer. Exclusions and limitations must be clearly disclosed in advertisements, including online, so review terms and conditions carefully before you go to the store or make a purchase.
Find out if rain checks apply. If a seller advertises a product at a certain price but sells out of that product by the time you respond to the ad, you may have the right to a rain check. However, sellers are not required to provide rain checks if they clearly disclose the number of goods available at that price or if they clearly state that no rain checks will be given.
Understand return policies before you buy. In Ohio, sellers can choose to set their own return policies, including policies of "no returns," but they should clearly tell you what their return policy is before you check out or complete the transaction. (For example, the return policy shouldn't be posted only on the back of a receipt.)
Look out for misrepresentations. Sellers may not misrepresent important characteristics of a product or use "bait-and-switch" tactics to lure you in with one advertised product only to encourage you to buy more expensive items.
Know that "free" must really mean free. Sellers may not advertise goods or services as "free" when the cost of the "free" offer is passed on to the consumer.
For example, if a seller is advertising a buy-one-get-one-free sale, the seller can't raise the base price of the first item in order to offset the cost of the "free" item.
Check delivery dates. Generally when you order a product or service, the seller has eight weeks to deliver the product or to offer you a refund or substitution. Carefully review expected delivery dates before you make a purchase so you know when to expect the delivery. Pick up delivered packages promptly so that they're not stolen or damaged outside your door.
Keep your receipts. Maintaining a complete record of a sale will help you handle problems that may arise after the purchase.
Keep copies of receipts, sales agreements, advertisements, photos of products, or other documentation of a sale until the transaction and billing process are complete.
Monitor your accounts. Regularly check your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized charges or unexpected activity.
If you find problems, immediately notify your credit card provider or bank.
The sooner you identify a problem, the sooner you can work to correct it.
Watch for scams. Con artists operate year round. If you receive a message saying you've won the lottery, the IRS is coming to arrest you, or a family member is out of the country and in need of money immediately, it's likely a scam.
Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice or want help addressing a consumer problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.