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Being a Smart Consumer

Woman online shopping

What does it mean to spend smart? It’s more than just finding the best deal. It means knowing your spending limits, knowing your rights and responsibilities as well as being informed before you buy. Don’t be tempted into a fast purchase by a flashy red sale sticker. Look for a good, reliable product that is reasonably-priced. The cheaper product may not be the best deal in the long-run if it doesn’t perform, breaks, or needs costly repairs. 

Use these tips to help you shop smart!
 

Before you buy

Can you afford it? 

Know what you can afford to spend and stick to a spending plan to keep your finances in check. Ask yourself if this purchase fits into your budget. Use our Build a Budget that Works to help you keep your finances in order. 

Do your homework

Do some research before buying a product or service. Check product reviews or FAQ’s on websites, they may help answer some questions or identify some common concerns people have with the product. Whether you are buying from a small local business or a large corporation, make sure you are buying from a reputable company. It’s also a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the business. 

Read the fine print

If you need to sign a contract for your purchase or a service, make sure you read and understand what you are agreeing to. Ask questions about anything that might be unclear and don’t sign until you fully understand. You are legally responsible to hold up your end of the contract once it is signed.  

Get everything in writing 
 

Refunds, exchanges, returns and warranties

Returns and Exchanges

Stores are not required to offer refunds, returns or exchanges if you change your mind, but if the product you bought falls short of reasonable expectations, you can typically request a repair, replacement, or refund from the distributor. Before you walk away with your new purchase, make sure you know the store’s return or exchange policy.  

Warranties

Did you ever buy a product that didn’t work, was defective, or that somehow just didn’t live up to your expectations or the seller’s promise?  New Brunswick’s Consumer Product Warranty and Liability Act (CPWALA) allows you to seek a remedy or repair when a product does not meet reasonable expectations. Make sure to keep any paperwork, and get any verbal promises in writing. It will be much easier to prove what was said in case of a dispute. (Important note: CPWALA does not apply to private sales between individuals)

For more information on your rights as a consumer, click here.   
 

Different ways to shop

While shopping retail is the most traditional way to shop, there are now many different outlets, like online, through apps, in games, etc. There are important considerations to make safe and informed spending choices for all of these outlets. 

Shopping Online

While shopping online is convenient and safe – you also need to be aware that cyber risks do exist. 

Follow these tips when shopping online:

  • Make sure to use secure sites that start with https://. These websites use encryption, thus protecting your data.
  • Avoid using a public Wi-Fi or public computer for online shopping.
  • Always type in your banking information versus using the autofill.
  • Create strong passwords that are unique from passwords used for other accounts.
  • Make sure the site is reputable. Watch for these red flags: spelling mistakes, no contact information, and malfunctioning features.  Try searching for the site name with the word scam to see if anything comes up.  Searching for reviews can sometimes be helpful too. 
  • Make sure to read all contracts and agreements, don’t just click or sign to indicate you have read and agree without actually reading the agreements and other information. While it is extremely common for people to accept terms of use online without reading, important information such as how companies will use and share your personal info is contained in these terms. In some cases, you may be consenting to having your information shared with other credit lenders, organizations, advertisers, or market research firms.
  • Take the time to read customer reviews, which can be a good indication if the item is worth purchasing. 
  • Make sure you know the company’s return policy before you buy the item. 

Shopping at your Door

Direct selling, also known as door-to-door selling, is when people sell products directly to you in a non-retail environment. This includes door-to-door sales, home party sales and in-home sales arranged through a telemarketing call. 

Direct sellers must (with some exceptions) be licensed and bonded. The direct seller’s licence is the first step to protecting consumers by screening salespeople before they enter your home. Sellers must carry their licences with them, proving that they are associated with a licensed company.

When dealing with a direct seller, ask to see their licence. Make sure that it has not expired, the seller is representing the company specified on the licence and it has been signed by the Director of Consumer Affairs of FCNB and the salesperson. 

For more tips on how to interact with door-to-door salespeople, click here

High Pressure? Walk away!

Regardless of where you shop, or who you buy from, be aware of high-pressure tactics that may put you at risk. 

Do not be pressured into signing on the spot. Get a copy of the contract and take the time to read it. Be sure it includes the company and salesperson’s name, a description of the goods or services, price information, and information about cancelling the sale. 

Remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  

High-pressure sales tactics include: 

  • Saying it’s a one-time offer and only available now. 
  • Offering free incentives, such as a home-inspection, prizes or consultations with the intent of soliciting a sale once arrived. 
  • Giving you misleading information by implying that the condition of your home or equipment needs an immediate fix.

If you experience high-pressure sales tactics from a direct seller, please contact us
 

After you buy

Keep receipts

Make sure to keep a copy of your receipts, warranties and services contracts. You may need them down the road to make a claim, or in the event of product recalls. 

Quick tip:  Create a binder that holds all your receipts, warranties, services contracts and manuals. Make a copy of your receipts as the paper they are printed on fades quickly. 

Borrow responsibly

If you chose to pay for an item using credit, have a plan to pay it back. You can also contact a credit counselling service for additional help and information about your options when dealing with and managing debt. Some credit counselling agencies are free, non-profit organizations, while others offer their services for a fee. If you can’t pay for your bills, talk to your creditors or ask a budget counselor for help. Visit our Collection Agencies page for more information on your rights when dealing with creditors and collection agencies. 

Making a complaint

If you are not happy with your purchase, contact the seller and give them a chance to correct any problems first. If the issue cannot be resolved, you may want to consider making a complaint. We have a step-by-step guide that can walk you through the process.