In preparation for National Consumer Protection Week, which is March 3-9, Attorney General Chris Carr encourages all Georgia consumers to take some time to stay up to date on the latest scams and learn about resources that can be used to educate themselves.
“The Office of the Attorney General offers two separate consumer protection guides. One is the Georgia Consumer Protection Guide for Older Adults and the other is the Georgia Military Consumer Protection Guide.
In addition, consumer.georgia.gov and ConsumerEd.georgia.gov contain a great deal of helpful information on a wide variety of consumer topics,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We encourage all Georgia consumers to devote some time this week to learning the tools to better protect themselves when they engage in consumer transactions.”
The Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division is also taking this opportunity to debunk the following common consumer myths:
MYTH 1 – 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 2 – 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 3 – 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 4 – 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 5 – 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 6 – When I am solicited by a charity, I can expect almost all of the money to go to the intended charitable purpose.
FACT: The accuracy 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 7 – 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.