Most businesses trade legitimately and respect their customers. Many other businesses do neither, and somewhere between the two, there are the vast majority of businesses. As a matter of law, when engaging in a contract, which is what you do when you buy a service or product from any business, the rule is caveat emptor or buyer beware.
However, this harsh tenet is modified in some countries by consumer legislation. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended), in England and Wales, gives consumers certain enforceable rights that ordinary contract law does not. This means that a consumer in England and Wales buying articles from a shop can reject the goods if they are not fit for purpose, if they are faulty, or if they are severely bad quality, (these terms have particular meanings in law).
Nevertheless, businesses are in business to make money and the way that they do that is to make money. They get that money from their customers and the more money they get from customers the greater profits they make.
When using any business, whether you are buying goods or services, it pays to keep your wits about you. There are common ways that businesses try to rip off their customers. Here are some tips for keeping you safe from bad deals.
If any offer seems to be too good to be true, then there is a catch. If a business is offering you a price for a service, or a job on your home that is much lower than that of comparative tradesmen, smell a rat and use someone else. This applies to all services and goods. Dead cert investment opportunities giving huge guaranteed returns do not exist. Do not let greed blind you to the truth.
In any contract for any service, whether it is home insurance, a bank account, credit card or anything else, read the small print before you sign. Once you sign a contract, you agree to all its terms including those hidden away in that tiny print. Companies hide nasty things in small print, you may find that your insurance contract does not cover you against all that you thought it did, or that the contract contains all sorts of disclaimers.
Never believe those offers in the supermarket, the ones that say new and improved product in a new improved pack. What it actually means is that they are selling a smaller pack for the same price as the older, and larger pack.Also when grocery shopping, the most expensive products are on the middle shelves nearest your eye line, the cheaper products are on the harder to reach bottom and top shelves.
Look out for hidden charges. Some businesses advertise fantastic offers, for their goods and services, which have terms and conditions that are impossible to meet. Some airlines do this, their headline offers seem good, but when you try to book, you will find that there are hidden charges. They may advertise a flight at a bargain price, but by the time you have paid airline fees, taxes, booking fees, fees for paying by credit card, luggage, and other fees, you may find that another company, which does not split its charges in this way, offers a much better deal.
Do be aware that an advertisement is not a contract. A display in a shop window does not constitute a contract, or even an offer, it is merely an invitation to negotiate. Do look out for what the retail trade calls ‘loss leaders’. These are a few items, in some supermarkets, usually everyday items such as milk and bread, at a much lower price than anywhere else has. These are bait to get you into their store. Once you are in the store, the business hopes that you will do the rest of your shopping in the store, without noticing that their other prices are much more expensive than they would be elsewhere.
When you are employing contractors to work on your home, be careful. Get several quotes before you decide on a contractor, research into the contractor’s background and take nothing at face value. If he says he is qualified to do certain things check that he actually is, also check any assertions that he belongs to certain trade organizations telephone the organization. Always be wary of a builder or tradesman who can start your job immediately, good trades people are much in demand and usually have their jobs booked up weeks or months in advance.
Be wary of businesses, who make cold calls for business, whether by telephone or in person. They may seem wonderful but one has to wonder about businesses, which need to cold call customers. Remember that some cold callers are not who they say they are. They may represent shady companies or they may be distraction burglars.
In the United Kingdom, and most of Europe, only qualified electricians may legally do electrical work, and only registered qualified gas fitters can legally work on gas fittings and appliances. You can easily check whether anyone is gas safe registered or a qualified electrician. They certify their work and you will need that certificate, should you sell your house. Never take excuses that someone else will certify the work, registered electricians and gas fitters value their registrations far too much to certify work that they have not personally done.
Never take anything businesses tell you at face value. Investigate any claims. Some claims are just plain ridiculous, “clean five times better” is one many companies use. Five times better than what? Their previous product, or someone else’s product, or five times better than nothing at all? Ask yourself whether these wild advertising claims really hold up to serious examination.
Another advertising claim that fools many women is expensive face creams that “appear” to hold back the signs of aging. No face cream can possibly do that. Are they saying that the cream fills in facial lines? You could do that more cheaply. When you examine many popular advertising claims, they actually mean nothing.
When you are purchasing anything, whether it is goods or services, never allow advertising or sales hype or clever salespersons to fool you. Do your research, keep your critical brain to the fore, and do not be bamboozled.
Knowing the tricks that businesses use, to try to rip off customers, helps you to look after your money. You can check out particular shady practice for specific consumer areas using an internet search engine. In the United Kingdom, report shady business practices to your local trading standards office (a department of your local authority), and cases of fraud or law breaking to the police.
In other countries, report such events to your local consumer protection organization. Be aware of your consumer rights; in the United Kingdom you will find out about consumer rights on the U.K. Government web site.