How to shop smarter this holiday season

Buyer beware: Saanich-based B.C. consumer protection agency offers advice on how to be shopping savvy

Buyer beware: Consumer protection agency on how to be shopping savvy

Natalie North

News staff

Attention holiday shoppers. Slow down and think twice before frustration gets the better of you and you finish your Christmas shopping online – or you take the easy way out and buy gift cards.

It’s wisdom straight from Consumer Protection B.C., an independently funded, not-for-profit agency aimed at helping consumers and businesses make educated decisions.

Based in Saanich’s Uptown centre, the agency is about as connected as it comes to the commercialism and stress that often hits shoppers during the season.

“People like to avoid the busyness of the store, so shopping online seems like a good place to go,” said Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith, spokesperson for Consumer Protection B.C. “The consequence is that people often don’t know what they’re getting and can be frustrated when things go wrong.”

Avoid the disappointment by purchasing from a retailer you know, ensure the website has full contact information available and remember to think through the details of added shipping, taxes, delivery fees and exchange rates before you finalize the deal, she said.

“Be really aware as  you’re going through the process because sometimes that final price isn’t as great as you thought it would be.”

When shopping in person, make a habit of checking receipts before you leave the store – after all, there’s no law in B.C. that requires businesses to offer exchanges or returns on merchandise.

It’s details like these that are the expertise of the agency, which split from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General in 2004. Call centre staff also based at Uptown are available to answer a range of questions, such as the details of consumer contracts – including those for cellphones – another area where Chabeaux-Smith warns buyers to proceed with caution.

“Always read the fine print,” she said.

Contact Consumer Protection B.C. at 1-888-564-9963 or www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.

Regretting resolutions

Ever signed a gym contract and lost motivation a week later? Don’t worry about it.

In B.C., consumers legally have 10 days to cancel a contract membership if they change their mind.

“You don’t have to give a reason,” Chabeaux-Smith said. “It’s no matter what.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

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