A real bargain? 

Welcome to twenty-sixteen, may it be a good year for you. 

Christmas has come and gone, but before you can take a breath your mailbox will again be stuffed with catalogues, fliers and special offers to start the year off (if you’d rather not get them, find out what you can do about it). 

Summer sales are looking bigger than ever and no doubt there are some real bargains out there if you can take advantage of them. That’s if your EFTPOS card has recovered from your Christmas spend-a-thon.

You can make really good use of such sales to get ahead of your Christmas and birthday gift buying (as long as the products you buy won’t be dated by the time they are given).  However, you do have to be a bit careful to make sure you are getting a real bargain. 

The Fair Trading Act prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct by traders, and has an impact on what traders can state about the goods and services they offer “on sale”. It covers misrepresentations made in brochures or leaflets, in store displays and signs, as part of a sales pitch and in TV, radio, newspapers and other advertisements.

What to look out for

If a store advertises an “Everything 50% off” sale, all its stock must be half price. 

If a store advertises “Up to 50% off”, a reasonable number of items must be 50% off, not just one or two – otherwise it can be viewed as enticing you into the store by the use of misleading advertising. 

When advertising the sale, the store must have reasonable stocks available of the reduced items or indicate the quantity they have available. Such advertising, without sufficient stock to meet likely demand, is called “bait advertising” you shouldn’t arrive an hour after the doors open on the first day of a sale only to find the store had few items reduced and they are already sold out.

When a store is advertising the prices of their goods, they must not mislead you about the true price relative to the sale. For example they cannot raise its prices before the sale and then quickly lower them again to make you think that you’re getting a special when really, the goods are at their normal price. If a store advertises goods as “was $49.95 – now $39.95”, its normal price must be $49.95.

You can read about other situations where issues about the price may cause a problem.

Making a complaint about an un-real sale

If you believe a trader has breached the Fair Trading Act (for example) in how they have promoted their discounts, you can make a complaint to the trader. You can read our tips for complaining effectively, including how to write a letter of complaint and what to do if this does not resolve the dispute.

Another option is to report it to the Commerce Commission. They can’t help you with your individual claim against the trader, but can prosecute the offending business if it considers that a breach has occurred.

You can talk to us about any consumer issue or any other problem you don’t know how to tackle - just contact your nearest CAB for a chat with our trained volunteers - we are happy to discuss any matter at all and our service is free, independent and confidential.