Be vigilant when shopping this Christmas

Date published: 10 December 2021

The Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards Service (TSS) is urging consumers to know their rights and avoid being a victim of fraud this Christmas.

Know your rights and avoid being a victim of fraud this Christmas.
Know your rights and avoid being a victim of fraud this Christmas.

Many Northern Ireland consumers will be out bargain hunting in their local high streets or searching online for that popular, in-demand Christmas present that may be fast selling out.

Whether shopping local with your £100 Spend Local card or buying online, hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent in the run up to Christmas and it pays to know your consumer rights and how to protect yourself.

Consumerline, which is part of the Trading Standards Service, regularly receives an increase in complaints from consumers about faulty, misdescribed, or counterfeit goods, particularly goods that have been bought online, as well as delays with delivery or goods not arriving at all.

Damien Doherty, Chief Inspector for the Trading Standards Service, said:

“At this time of year, many consumers are looking for a bargain. They may be tempted to respond to ads on social media where a wide variety of products, claiming to be popular brand names, are sold very cheaply. These goods often turn out to be fake and of poor quality; they could also be unsafe. With fraudsters likely to make the most of the festive season by coming up with ever more ways to target consumers during the Christmas rush, we are urging shoppers to be vigilant and know their rights before parting with their money."

Consumers who have bought faulty or misdescribed items or have ordered goods which have not been delivered should contact Consumerline on 0300 1236262 or alternatively log onto the Consumerline website.

Notes to editors: 

1. Common issues that consumers should be aware of include:

  • Counterfeit goods: Toys, electrical items, cosmetics, sports clothing, power tools, cigarettes and alcohol all make regular appearances on online marketplaces at this time of year. Fake goods are not only poorly made, but in some cases can be dangerous as they are not subject to the same stringent tests as genuine items. Many consumers think that they are getting a bargain by purchasing cut-price, counterfeit goods. In reality, they are increasingly putting themselves or their families at risk. Only buy items that are genuine and from reputable sellers. Counterfeiters often steal pictures and formatting from real websites to make their websites look legitimate, so don’t be fooled by a professional looking website.
  • Scams: Watch out for parcel delivery scams during the Christmas postal rush. Criminals are posing as well-known delivery companies and sending emails saying they have not been able to deliver goods, and then ask for a fee to rearrange the delivery. Customers are typically tricked into clicking on links to seemingly genuine websites requesting personal and financial information such as their address, date of birth, mobile number or bank details.
  • Social media ads and emails: Consumers should exercise caution when coming across social media ads and emails about discounted items, event promotions, free gift cards, job opportunities and donation requests, as well as direct messages from strangers. If you are asked to make a payment or donation by money transfer, through third parties, by prepaid debit or gift cards, treat this as a red flag.
  • Returns & refunds: Shops only have to offer a refund if the item is not as described, fit for purpose or is below satisfactory quality. If goods are faulty you may be entitled to claim a refund, repair or replacement. Some high street stores may offer a more generous and extended returns policy. However, consumers are able to return goods purchased online up to 14 days after delivery, even if there is nothing wrong with the item. 
  • Presents: If you receive a gift you don’t like, you don’t automatically have the right to return them for a refund. In most cases, only the person who purchased the item can return it. Always ask for a gift receipt that will allow you to transfer your rights along with the gift.
  • Deliveries: Make sure you check the delivery times over Christmas. If you’ve placed an order and think it’s not going to arrive in time, you can cancel by letter or email. But let them know quickly so you don’t end up having to send it back and paying the postage to return it.
  • Payment: Always use a credit card for purchases over £100 to get added protection for faulty goods or if a trader goes bust. For debit or credit card purchases of £100 and under, you can use chargeback. Avoid paying for items by bank or money transfer.

2. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires goods to be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose.

3. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges Regulations) require that businesses contracting with consumers “at a distance” provide detailed information and a 14 day cancellation period.

4. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:

  • Twitter – @Economy_NI and @TSSNI
  • Facebook – @EconomyNI
  • Skills to Succeed Facebook – SkillstoSucceedni
  • Instagram – economy_ni
  • LinkedIn – Department for the Economy NI

5. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at .

6. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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