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Retailers must follow specific rules when doing business in Massachusetts. But remember, unless otherwise stated, Massachusetts consumer protection laws apply to businesses and not to private party sales.
It’s illegal for a salesperson to make false or misleading statements about a product or a service or withhold any information about it in an attempt to convince you to buy it, to sell merchandise "as is", to try to pass a used product off as a new one, or for them to try to sell an item using what is referred to as a “Bait & Switch” tactic.
Bait & Switch occurs when a salesperson:
Most of the products for sale within a retail store must be price marked. The cost of a service, such as make-up application or clothes tailoring, must be displayed or discussed before you agree to it.
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Grocery Item Pricing
Food retailers offer sale and discounted prices on particular items for a short period of time. Sometimes discounted prices and signs are not removed after the sale ends. To protect consumers and encourage retailers to keep a close eye on their item pricing, Massachusetts law states that a food store or food department may be fined $100.00 for any item that scans higher than the lowest advertised, marked or shelf tag price.
Although there are a number of exemptions from having a price label on each individual item, stores can also be fined for every missing shelf price tag. For more information about Massachusetts item pricing law, please visit M.G.L. Chapter 94, Section 184 B, C, D and E.
Note: Item pricing in retail stores is different than in grocery stores. See below for additional information.
Price Accuracy Guarantees
The Massachusetts Item Pricing Law requires food and grocery stores to individually price mark most items with the actual selling price, unless an in-aisle electronic price scanner system is available or the items are located in end-aisle or freestanding displays. Certain quick-selling items, such as gallons and half-gallons of milk, eggs, vegetables and fruit, and greeting cards are exempt and don’t need to be individually priced.
Items sold in a grocery store must ring up at the lowest displayed price. Food stores that are in the waiver program must offer consumers one of the items free if it scans higher than the lowest advertised price. Price accuracy guarantees are required to be posted at each checkout lane. To determine whether a store has signed the waiver contact the Division of Standards (DOS): (617) 727-3480.
Stores not in the waiver program have to have every item in the store priced (with some exceptions). In these stores, items that ring up wrong do have to be given for the correct price. So any overcharge has to refunded immediately.
Non-Grocery Retail Store
The Attorney General’s Item Price Regulation, 940 C.M.R. 3.13, applies to non-grocery stores or to the non-grocery items of a mixed-product retailer. if you would like to file a complaint you may do so here or contact the Attorney General's Consumer Advocacy and Response Division (CARD): (617) 727-8400.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no set law about return policies in Massachusetts. As long as a product is not defective, a store can have any return policy they want so long as it is clearly disclosed somewhere in the store and you have a chance to read it before buying your product. Defective merchandise must be accepted for return, regardless of any policy, and you must be given the option of a repair, replacement item, or refund of the price.
When is the cooling-off period allowed?
Door-to-Door Sales: If you make a purchase for over $25 at a place other than a merchant's usual place of business, Massachusetts and federal law allows you three days to cancel and get your money back. You must notify the seller in writing within three business days of signing the contract and must allow the seller to pick up the goods at your house, or agree to ship the items back to the seller at no cost to you. If the seller does not pick up the goods within 20 days of the notice of cancellation, then you may keep or dispose of them as you wish.
Credit Repair and Services Organizations: You may cancel a contract for credit repair and services until midnight of the third business day after signing it. Your payment will be returned within 10 days of the organization receiving your cancellation notice.
Gym or Health Club memberships: Consumers have three business days to cancel a health club contract no matter where it was signed. Cancellation must be done by written notice and your money must be refunded within 15 days. (Health spas, sports clubs, weight control centers, and martial arts schools are all considered health clubs.)
Time Shares: To cancel a time share contract, notify the seller of your intent to cancel no later than three business days after signing the contract. If you paid by check, a refund must be made immediately as long as the check was not yet deposited into the seller's account, otherwise it must be refunded within 7 days. If you paid by credit card, a credit must be made to your account immediately.
The Federal Trade Commission Mail Order Rule governs delivery laws in Massachusetts.
If you find an error on your credit or charge card statement, you may dispute the charge and withhold payment on the disputed amount while the credit card company investigates.
How do you dispute a charge?
Step 1: Send a written billing error notice to the creditor. Your notice must reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill containing the error was mailed to you. The notice should include your name and account number, the dollar amount of the billing error, and the reasons why you believe there is a mistake.
Step 2: The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days after it is received, unless the problem is resolved within that period.
Step 3: Within two billing cycles (but not more than 90 days), the creditor must conduct a reasonable investigation and either correct the mistake or explain why the bill is believed to be correct.
You also may dispute charges for unsatisfactory goods or services purchased with a credit or charge card.