For Immediate Release - August 11, 2005

Trouble-Free, Tax-Free Shopping Begins with Understanding Your Rights

Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom joined Governor Mitt Romney in Boston today to advise consumers who will take advantage of the upcoming sales tax holiday to know their shopping rights and retailers' policies during the busy shopping weekend.

"Shop, but shop smart," said Director Lindstrom. "With the volume of shopping we expect, we want to minimize consumer problems that could result following this weekend. Shoppers need to be aware of their rights for all purchases, large or small," Lindstrom added.

In addition to guidelines for sales tax-free purchases provided on the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website at www.mass.gov/dor , Director Lindstrom suggests consumers be familiar with the following protections before they make purchases:

  • If you want to avoid the crowds and complete the sale over the phone or Internet, be sure you are satisfied with the style and quality of the merchandise. Where possible, see the merchandise in-person beforehand.
  • Verify that retailers you purchase from over the Internet or by phone are aware that eligible merchandise is exempt from the Massachusetts sales tax. If you are charged the sales tax in error, contact the retailer. If you are not reimbursed the sales tax, report the retailer to the Department of Revenue.
  • Save your receipts. You need them for exchanges and refunds, but you'll also need them if you were wrongly charged sales tax.
  • Understand the terms of the warranty. Consumer products must perform in keeping with what they were designed to do with reasonable safety, efficiency, ease and for a reasonable period of time. If they don't, the buyer is entitled to receive repairs, a replacement or a refund.
  • Know the retailer's refund, return and cancellation policies. State law requires merchants to disclose these conditions clearly and conspicuously, but they often vary widely. Disclosure must occur prior to a transaction. Store policies disclosed only on a printed sales receipt do not satisfy the state's disclosure requirement.
  • Find out whether a retailer charges a re-stocking fee should you return a piece of merchandise that works but you weren't satisfied with. These fees can also vary widely and should be disclosed with refund, return and cancellation policies.
  • If a retailer has an "All Sales Final" return policy, it must disclose that condition and accept returned merchandise if it is defective and offer the consumer a repair, replacement or refund.