Q: I am in the process of placing a special order for custom made furniture and the supplier asked for full payment in advance. Can a business do this and how am I protected if something goes wrong?
A: There is no law prohibiting the supplier from requesting full payment in advance. However, the smart thing to do is offer to pay half in advance and the other half upon delivery.
Before placing the order, get an agreement in writing that clearly stipulates the terms and conditions of this purchase, with a detailed description of the items you are ordering and the delivery date.
In the event that the supplier does not deliver in a timely manner and/or according to the agreement, you are entitled to a full refund and the Consumer Protection Act 1999 stipulates that the vendor must refund the money within 30 days after it has been formally requested by the consumer.
Q: Eight weeks ago I ordered and paid for a computer to be brought in from overseas by a local vendor. On the invoice it clearly stated that this order would take no more than two weeks. However, the computer is not here. Can I get my money back?
A: Yes. This business has not provided the product in a timely manner or in accordance with the delivery date as per the Agreement and a breach has occurred. Failure to refund your money is a breach of the Consumer Protection Act 1999.
Simply write to the business requesting a full refund and, according to the Act, that business has up to 30 days to refund the consumer in full (click here for a sample letter).
Q: What is the difference between an estimate and a quote?
A: “Estimate” means a representation, whether written or oral, indicating the likely price that will be charged in respect of consumer goods or services.
“Quote” means a written and signed representation setting out the actual price that will be charged in respect of consumer goods or services.
Q: What would be considered aggressive and abusive business practices?
A: Aggressive practices by providers of goods or services intimidate or financially exploit consumers by restricting their ability to make a free or informed alternative decision.
There are many forms of aggressive practices prevalent in the purchase of goods and services in Bermuda, such as exerting undue influence, harassment or coercion, threatening behaviour and verbal abuse. It’s particularly disturbing when the victims are physically or mentally challenged or when they are seniors.
Q: On food labeling what does best by/before mean?
A: This term means just what it says — it is best to purchase the product by the date on the container.
Best by/before’ or ‘best if used by’ refers to a quality or flavour of the food and is usually used on foods that last longer, such as frozen, dried or canned foods.
While you can safely eat food after this date, it will often no longer be at its best.
Common foods with this label include margarine, popsicles, mayonnaise, peanut butter, marmalade and some frozen patties.
For more information on food labeling click here.
Q: Who should I complain to regarding an item I purchased?
A: Don't take your complaint to the sales person. Do speak to the manager. You have the right to try and get your complaint resolved by someone who is in a position of authority.
Q: If retail goods are marked lower than the price on the register, shouldn't I pay the lower price?
A: No. This falls under what the law calls, an invitation to treat. The retailer decides the price he wants to charge for his goods and is not obliged to sell it to you at the lower mismarked price. The retailer can withdraw the offer to sell the goods until the problem has been rectified or you as the customer can buy the goods at the higher corrected price.
Q: I purchased an item at a store and when I returned home I received a call from the store manager who told me that the salesperson sold it to me at the wrong price and that the goods were actually more than I paid. He demanded that I pay the extra or he would take it off my credit card. Can he do that?
A: No. The salesperson is a representative of the company and therefore had the authority to sell the item to you. There was an invitation to treat, the steps of the contract were made and the transaction was completed. The fact that the salesperson made a mistake was not your problem. The manager cannot take the extra from your card without your permission because it would be considered credit card fraud.
Q: I put a down payment on an item totaling half the cost. The item I wanted was not in stock. When the item arrived, the manager told me that it would cost more than I was initially told. Do I have to pay the higher balance?
A: The item’s cost may have increased due to shipping charges, currency exchange, and import duties. If you had not agreed that your sale was based on a fixed price, if you wish to keep the item, you will have to pay the higher balance. In order to avoid this happening in the future, at the time you make a down payment, establish if the price is fixed.
Q: I went to buy goods from a store and the manager refused to sell me the goods. Can he do this?
A: Yes, you can be refused service as long as it is proven not to be because of any discrimination covered under the Human Rights Act 1980.
Q: I went to a restaurant for a meal. The waiter presented me with the bill that was significantly higher than I thought right. Can I refuse to pay?
A: No, you cannot refuse to pay after the completion of the seller’s obligations. In this case the transaction was completed when you accepted the delivery of the food and ate it. It is up to you to ask the price of an item before you purchase it. If the price is not to your liking, don’t buy it. However, you can demand to speak to the Manager to question your bill if the bill was incorrect or you were charged for items that you did not receive.
Q: Am I obligated to accept a store credit if I return a product I do not want.
A: Yes. The only time a retailer has to refund your money is for a faulty or defective product.
Q: Is it illegal to download music and movies, copy them and then sell them?
A: Yes! This is copyright infringement and if convicted you could face a prison term of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
Even if you simply make copies of your personal CDs and DVDs and sell them, it is still illegal. If you buy music, movies, or any other counterfeit goods, you are aiding and abetting criminal behaviour.
Q: What is copyright infringement?
A: This takes place when a copyrighted work is used — reproduced, translated, adapted, exhibited or performed in public, distributed, downloaded, broadcast or communicated to the public — without the owner’s permission or under a limitation to copyright.
Q: Is it safe to buy secondhand children's items?
A: Not always.
Some items can be out of date and no longer safe. Some children’s products, especially bassinets and cribs, have caused deaths and have been the subject of numerous recalls. Check our complete recall list before you purchase any used children’s product.