Shoppers opting for layaway plans need to ask the right questions before they sign hire purchase agreements with stores, the Fair Trading Commission warned today.
FTC Consumer Protection Officer Julia Regis gave the advice as the consumer protection agency continued an outreach education programme at the SkyMall shopping mall.
Regis told Barbados TODAY that as the FTC informed consumers of their rights and responsibilities, most of them asked about product exchanges on credit purchases, which she said seemed to be on the rise.
Regis said: “We want them to shop around and make an informed choice when they purchase an item, whether it is on price or quality.
“We recognise that lots of people are doing layaways now, but when you are doing these layaway plans you need to ask some questions as a consumer – what is the duration of this plan, if I don’t meet that commitment what happens, because in some of those instances people can change their minds about those layaway plans.
“So we want consumers really to go out there and shop around, ask questions if needs be and if there is any uncertainty they are free to give us a call and our officers are on hand to answer questions before they make their purchase.”
Regis said the reception to the outreach has been very good, pointing out that both customers and storeowners had a number of queries.
“So we found that persons were very receptive of us coming out and being part of the whole shopping experience,” she said.
The FTC official said the outreach also created an avenue for consumers to make a report on the spot.
She acknowledged that shoppers were faced with an increasing variety of places to shop including online.
But Regis reminded that the consumer protection and fair competition agency was only able to take enforcement action, investigate breaches or determine standards in relation to purchases made from a company located here.
She explained: “You must be in trade or commerce and in Barbados.
“So if you made a purchase on Amazon, for example, and something goes wrong with the product we won’t be able to assist you with that because it is out of our jurisdiction, so you would have to speak to the Federal Trade Commission and that would be part of the US purview.
“An online purchase locally is just as though the person is going into a physical store.
“So if there is a problem with an online purchase and that person is in trade or commerce locally then you can complain to us because that would be treated as if that person actually had a physical store that you can walk in.” [email protected]