How familiar are you with your rights as a consumer? Read on for the facts behind these
MYTH ONE - I have a three-day right to cancel any purchase (including new and used car purchases).
FACT: There is no universal right to cancel purchases. A three-day right to cancel exists for only a limited number of consumer transactions. For the most part, the three-day right to cancel applies only to credit or cash transactions of $25 or more that were initiated through face-to-face contact (such as door-to-door sales) away from the seller's regular place of business and that resulted in a written agreement. The three-day right-to-cancel provision does not cover purchases of real estate, insurance or securities.
MYTH TWO - A store has to give me a refund if I request one.
FACT: Georgia does not have any law that requires a business to provide a refund or accept returns. A business may set its own return policy and may offer consumers cash, in-store credit, exchanges or no adjustment at all. Many stores also set time limits during which they accept returns. While not required to post their policies, businesses must honor any posted refund or return policy.
MYTH THREE - When I receive an "award notification," I am a guaranteed winner.
FACT: One of the most common types of fraud involves phony prize offers. Although it is tempting to think you could be a winner, proceed very cautiously, because in all likelihood you will not be the winner. No matter how the offer is packaged, they almost always cost you money. It's not a prize if you must make a purchase, provide a donation or send an advance payment for taxes, handling fees or processing charges; in fact, Georgia law prohibits charging for a prize. Any promotion in Georgia must disclose clearly the verifiable retail value of each prize offered; the odds of receiving each prize if an element of chance is involved; any limitations on eligibility; the geographic area covered by the notice; and which, if any, prize you would receive for attending a seminar or presentation. Additionally, a list of all winners must be made available.
MYTH FOUR - I have a better chance of winning a publisher's sweepstakes when I purchase magazines.
FACT: Since it is illegal for sweepstakes promotions to require any type of purchase or payment, entrants who do not purchase magazines must be given the same chance of winning publishers' sweepstakes as those who do make purchases.
MYTH FIVE - There is a lemon law that protects purchasers on all big-ticket items, including used cars.
FACT: While all 50 states have lemon laws that cover new car purchases, there is no universal "lemon law" that applies to every big-ticket item. Georgia’s Lemon Law covers only motor vehicles purchased or leased new. Before buying a used car or other used item, you should investigate its history and have it checked out by a mechanic or someone knowledgeable of the product.
MYTH SIX - When I am solicited by a charity, I can expect almost all of the money to go to the intended charitable purpose.
FACT: The truthfulness of that statement depends upon the charity involved. Charitable organizations are not obligated to spend a certain percentage of their donations on their stated charitable purpose. Those that hire professional fundraisers will have higher overhead costs to meet and may therefore spend less on the actual cause. Ask the caller if he or she is a paid solicitor or a volunteer for the charity and what percentage of the donation will actually go to the charity. You can check the track record of a nationally soliciting charity through the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and any charity registered in the state through Georgia’s Secretary of State.
MYTH SEVEN - Giving out my credit card number for identification or other similar purposes is all right as long as I don't authorize a charge on my account.
FACT: Allowing your credit cards to be used for identification purposes is a mistake. Con artists with access to your credit card number and expiration date may make unauthorized charges against your account. However, there is usually no problem in using your credit card to place catalog orders, make hotel reservations, or make other types of purchases from familiar, established businesses.
MYTH EIGHT - Money cannot be withdrawn from my checking account without my written signature.
FACT: Under banking law regarding “demand drafts,” merely giving out your checking account number may result in withdrawals being made from your account. Someone could issue a demand draft to your bank, claiming you authorized the withdrawal, and the bank may pay it even though it lacks your signature. You may not know this has happened until you receive your next statement.
MYTH NINE - Only those to whom I've applied for credit or given permission can look at my credit report.
FACT: In addition to anyone you have authorized access, potential employers, landlords, insurers and others may also look at your credit report—and many actually do.
MYTH TEN - Advertisements I see or hear on TV, radio, the internet, newspapers and magazines are accurate, or they would not be allowed in the mainstream media.
FACT: There is no government requirement that advertisements be submitted to any public agency for advance review, nor are the media legally required to investigate or validate the truth of the advertisements they broadcast or print.