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Your rights when you shop

Your rights when you shop

We work with the Massachusetts attorney general to educate consumers on a variety of topics. Learn about what rights you have when shopping.

STORE POLICIES

By law, businesses must display their refund, return, and cancelation policies. A store needs to have these written policies in a place where shoppers can see them before they buy.

If you bought something and it was already damaged before you used it, a business must credit you for that product. They can’t use the store’s return policy as an excuse not to accept it.

If you get credit for a return, you have at least five years to use it. Gift certificates expire at least two years after the date you bought the original item.

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING

Businesses must tell you about any facts that may influence your decision to buy a product. They are not allowed to use bait-and-switch tactics, including:

  • refusing to sell you a product as it was originally advertised
  • telling you the original product they were offering is no good
  • saying they don't have enough of a product, or
  • refusing to deliver the product within a reasonable time.

A business must have enough of their advertised products available to meet demand. If they run out of something, they generally have to give you a “raincheck.”

To use the word “sale” in an ad, the savings must be at least 10 percent for items costing $200 or less. More expensive items must be discounted at least 5 percent.

PRICING

Non-grocery stores must put actual prices on their products. Most grocery stores must mark prices as well, but there are exceptions on certain items.

There are only a few situations when you get a three-day “cooling off” period to cancel the purchase of something:

  • door to door sales
  • health club contracts
  • time shares, and
  • credit repair services.
MAIL-ORDER, PHONE, TV, AND ONLINE PURCHASES

Federal law says that businesses must ship your order within the time frame they advertised. If they didn't specify a time frame, they must ship the product within 30 days.

Always read the fine print in mail-order advertisements, and don't forget about shipping and handling charges.

UNSOLICITED PRODUCTS

If you get a product in the mail that you didn't order, you can consider it a gift. It's yours to keep or throw out, and you don’t have to let the business who sent the product know.

FAIR CREDIT BILLING

The Fair Credit Billing Act is a federal law that protects consumers when they use credit cards. There are a couple of key points in the act:

  • If you notice a mistake on your credit card statement, you can put a stop on the payment while you dispute the charge.

You must send a written notice to your creditor within 60 days. They have to respond to your complaint within 30 days of receiving it, unless the problem was resolved.

Still have questions? Contact:
Consumer Affairs and Licensing
617-635-4165
1 City Hall Square
Room 817
Boston, MA 02201-2039
United States