Telling good sales from bad

Last updated 05:00 09/02/2014
Ballantynes sale
Dean Kozanic

SALE TIME: There are some great bargains around at this time of year.

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Summer sales are looking bigger than ever and no doubt there are some real bargains out.

However, we do get regular complaints from clients who instead feel like they've been ripped off.

James recently contacted us to complain about a laptop advertised at half-price, but when he went into the shop they were out of stock.

The Fair Trading Act aims to protect consumers from false advertising, which basically shouldn't mislead the consumer. Here are some things to look out for:

If a store advertises an "Everything 50 per cent off" sale, all its stock must be half price.

If a store advertises "Up to 50 per cent off", a reasonable number of items must be 50 per cent off, not just one or two.

The store must also have reasonable stocks available, or indicate the quantity - otherwise it's called "bait advertising".

The store cannot raise its prices before the sale and then quickly lower them again.

If a store advertises goods as "was $49.95 - now $39.95", the normal price must be $49.95.

If you believe a trader has breached the Fair Trading Act and want to do something about it, your first call should be to the trader.

That's what James did after talking to us, and the company involved agreed to sell him a laptop at half-price. If you can't sort things directly with the trader, you may choose to take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal. Even though it won't help you with your individual claim against a trader, if you believe that a sale "bargain" wasn't what it claimed to be then you can also report it to the Commerce Commission.

Dr Andrew Hubbard is national research and policy advisor at the Citizens Advice Bureau

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