Buy one, get one free

June 21, 2012 21:23 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

What is the law concerning “buy one get one free”?  Specifically, I am wondering if I only want one of the item, isn’t the store supposed to charge me 50% off in lieu of getting a second item free?  

Consumer Ed says: 

Stores often devise promotions to entice consumers to purchase their merchandise.  One increasingly popular promotion is advertising store products as “buy one, get one free,” otherwise known as “BOGO.”  This marketing tool serves as an incentive for consumers to get two of the same or similar items, while only paying for one of them.  Consumers will almost always select two such products in order to take advantage of the advertised “discount.”  In general, these types of promotions are run to get more people in the door, or to reduce the store’s inventory of a particular product.

This promotion is especially popular in grocery stores.  Consumers arrive at the “check out” counter and notice that the first of the two products is often automatically scanned at half off of the original price, regardless of whether the second item is purchased.  This often creates confusion as to whether it is actually necessary to purchase two products in order to receive one product for free, or if one can simply purchase one of the advertised products at half off of the original price.  There is no law pertaining to “buy one, get one free” deals in particular, and a merchant is not necessarily required to give you a BOGO item at half-price simply because you don’t select two of them.  It’s best to ask a sales associate or customer service representative in advance about the store’s policy concerning BOGO deals.  This way, you’ll know what to expect before you buy anything.

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Refund policies for online merchants

April 11, 2012 18:54 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I purchased some merchandise online.  The company shipped the order, which I later returned.  The merchant never posted a credit, so I notified my credit card company and requested a chargeback.  The merchant is now saying, "All refunds are for merchandise only.”  Can they do this?  I'm pretty sure the website did not have this language before, but I can't be sure.

Consumer Ed says: 

It sounds as if the merchant is saying that when an item is returned, they will only give store credit or exchanges rather than a full refund.  In Georgia, merchants are not required to give a refund or credit unless the merchandise is defective, or if the buyer was persuaded to purchase the item based on deceptive or misleading advertising.

Most sellers offer some sort of refund or credit because they want customers to return, not out of any legal obligation.

However, sellers are required to clearly state their return/cancellation policies. If you were sure that the website did not say "all refunds are for merchandise only" at the time of your purchase, then you might be able to claim that it was deceptive of them to misrepresent your refund or cancellation rights. But if the seller did disclose this policy previously, then you are probably out of luck.

If you believe the product you bought was defective, that the advertising was misleading or deceptive, or that the website did not disclose the return policies before you made the purchase, you can submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org; to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov; or to the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection at  www.consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123.

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Handling fee on ticket purchases

March 22, 2012 17:20 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I just spoke with a comedy club and was informed that an $8.99 handling fee is charged on "all" tickets purchased, even on-site at ticket booth/box office.  I thought if a ticket was purchased on-site or at a box office, a handling fee could not be charged. 

Consumer Ed says: 

For tickets purchased on-site or at the box office, Georgia law allows the owner, operator or sponsor of the event to add a service charge in addition to the face value of the ticket.  You can ask the comedy club what the handling charge is for.  If they say that it is for dinner, gratuity, parking or surcharges, which must be paid by the customer in order to see the show, these things fall under the definition of “face value”, and therefore should be included as part of the original ticket price.  Note that additional federal, state, or local tax charges are not included as part of the “face value.”

However, the law does place some limits on ticket brokers (outside agents who resell tickets to events) who charge a premium in excess of the face price of the ticket.  These brokers must be licensed, pay additional taxes, clearly list the face value of the ticket plus the additional fees, and give refunds if warranted.  These limitations do not apply to an owner or operator where the event is held, or the authorized ticket agent of such persons (e.g., Ticketmaster).  Further, regardless of who’s selling the tickets, there are no legal limits on service charge amounts, even for ticket brokers.

Still, if the comedy club fails to disclose the cost of the handling fees, or advertises ticket prices but charges additional fees for items that should have been included in that face price, the club’s advertising could be found to be unfair or deceptive.  If this is the case, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or to the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection at www.consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123.

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