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Dubious deals alert

Geraldine Panapasa
Saturday, January 19, 2013

WHEN traders and people who sell their services use misleading and untrustworthy ways to promote, supply or sell their products to consumers it is called 'unfair trade practices'.

It is used to fool consumers into making a decision to buy something they would otherwise not have spent their money on. Here are a few examples of unfair trade practices:

Misleading or deceptive conduct

Behaviour is misleading if people use false or untrue information or give a picture that is likely to deceive the consumer that will:

* lead someone to a wrong decision

* create a false impression

* leave out or hiding important information

* make untrue claims about how good their products or services are.

Some examples of conduct that may be misleading or deceptive are:

* a mobile phone provider signing you up to a contract without telling you that there is no coverage in your area

* a business claiming its product can improve health but has no proof that it can

* a transport company using a picture of aeroplanes to give the impression that it takes freight by air when it actually sends it on land.

Unconscionable conduct

This is behaviour that is against good conscience. Examples of unconscionable conduct can, depending on the circumstances, include:

* not properly explaining the conditions of contract to a consumer who does not understand English

* not allowing enough time to read an agreement, ask questions or get advice

* making a consumer sign a blank or one-sided contract

* using a cosumer's friend or relative to influence his/her decision.

False or misleading representations

It is unlawful for traders and service providers to give an untrue or misleading picture or idea of their products or services when they are supplying, offering to supply, or promoting them to a consumer. For instance, a business must not make false or misleading representations about:

* the standard, quality, value or grade of goods or services

* the style, model what it is made of or previous history or use of goods

* whether the goods are new

* statements by any person praising goods or services

* the price of goods or services

* the availability of repair facilities or spare parts

* the place a product originally came from — for example, where it was made or assembled

* a buyer's need for the goods or services

* any guarantee, warranty or condition on the goods or services.

Some examples of false or misleading representations include:

* a manufacturer selling shoes which were not pure leather but labeled as 'pure leather'

* a retailer placing a label on garments showing a sale price and a higher crossed-out price. However, the garments were never on sale for the higher price.

False or misleading advertisements

False or misleading advertising refers to advertisements that deceive or is likely to trick a consumer that sees it or can cause loss, damage or injury to the public. The following are examples of how advertisements can be false or misleading:

* claims made about the features or quality of goods and services which are false. For example, a trader claims a product weighs one kilogram when in fact it is 900 grams.

* the price or way in which the price is calculated is misrepresented. For example, goods are not really on sale at reduced prices but advertised as if they are.

* the conditions under which the goods or services are supplied are different to what is advertised. For example, 'free delivery' is advertised but the trader actually charges money for delivery.

* other costs and charges are not told to the consumer. For example, an internet service advertised as $39 per month but the costs to have it installed, equipment needed to use it known as start-up cost are not told to the consumer.

* This is a regular column from the Consumer Council of Fiji. Email: mediaofficer@consumersfiji.org for feedback.





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