Published: Tuesday, 11th December 2018

With the festive season upon us, many people are racing to the shops or hunting for an online bargain for their loved ones.

Medway Council has issued seasonal advice to help prevent shoppers falling victim to unpleasant surprises this Christmas.

The council’s Trading Standards team advises residents throughout the year of their consumer rights and also works closely with businesses to provide specialist advice to ensure they continue to compete in a fair and safe manner.

There are hundreds of shops across Medway’s five towns, all offering something for everyone. Medway residents are encouraged to support their local high street this Christmas. With free parking in all council-run car parks in Medway from Thursday, 20 December until Sunday, 23 December, take a trip to your local town centre - or one of Medway’s private shopping centres - to help support Medway’s small businesses.  

Know your rights

Here are some top shopping tips this Christmas:

Always check the returns policy - Although most will, shops do not have to give you a refund or exchange. Always check the seller’s returns policy before buying. If you want to be able to return an unsuitable item, you can ask for confirmation in writing.

Always buy from a secure website - Always find out whether the company you are buying from has a secure website before giving credit or debit card details on the internet.

Buy from trusted companies - Try to use reputable companies or those you have shopped with before. If you haven’t used them before, you could always check their reviews. 

Remember you are protected by the law - The law protects you if the gift you bought turns out to be faulty or not as described. These rights apply to the purchaser of the goods only, not the person who receives the present.  Before making a complaint make sure you have proof of purchase. This can be a receipt or a credit or debit card statement which shows where you bought the goods from and how much you paid for them. You should also make sure that you have followed the instructions and not damaged the goods. Stop using them when a fault becomes apparent and contact the shop or company as soon as possible.

Don’t forget to check if your purchase has a CE mark for safety - If you’re decorating your Christmas tree or home and need to buy new Christmas lights, ensure they have the CE mark as this shows they conform to European legislation.

Toys with small parts may be hazardous - Avoid toys with small parts for young children as these can be inhaled, cause a choking hazard or be put into ears or noses. Beware of small parts that can become loose or bitten off and always buy age appropriate toys.

Some bargains are too good to be true

In the run-up to Christmas many shoppers are on the lookout for bargains, but some cheap alcohol and tobacco can be fake and dangerous.

Fake alcohol poses health risks - From dizziness and breathing difficulties to even death – as it may contain methanol, which is used in anti-freeze and windscreen wash. Illegal alcohol is often counterfeited or smuggled and produced in unregulated, unhygienic distillers. You can spot fake alcohol by low quality labelling, an unusual smell, inconsistent fill levels and how it’s sold cheaply, for cash only.

Watch out for illegal cigarettes - Sold individually from open packets or from under a shop counter. All legal cigarette packs which are sold in the UK have a plain standard style with health warnings.

It’s important we all support local businesses

Cllr Jane Chitty, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Economic Growth and Regulation, said: “Medway’s high streets have a fantastic range of small businesses offering something for everyone this Christmas and all year round. I would encourage residents to check out what’s on offer in Medway’s shops. It’s important we all support local businesses to help them thrive and grow, creating more jobs for residents.

“I would also encourage residents to take a look at the advice offered by Medway’s Trading Standards team to avoid any upset and to remain safe this festive period.”

For more advice on product safety, contact the Trading Standards Service on 01634 333333 or email consumer.protection@medway.gov.uk

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