BUYING and selling of goods is an everyday occurrence in the marketplace. There are a number of things consumers must look out for and beware of.
Representations about the sale or interest in land
A trader or service provider must not make false or misleading representations about the sale or grant of an interest in land.
For instance, a business must not make false or misleading representations about the:
* nature of the interest in the land;
* price, location, characteristics or use that can be made of the land; and
* availability of facilities associated with the land. For example, a real estate agent would be misrepresenting the characteristics of a property if advertising 'beachfront lots' whereas the lots have no beachfront. It is also unlawful for the person making the claims about the land to represent that he or she has a sponsorship, approval or affiliation when this is not the case.
Bait advertising occurs when a business advertises or offers goods for sale knowing that it cannot supply them in reasonable quantities for a reasonable period of time.
Traders must be able to supply the goods and services as advertised at that price, for that period, in that quantity and having regard to the nature of the market in which that trader carries on his business.
For example, advertising a mobile phone at a very low price compared to other offers on the market without having a reasonable stock in light of the demand that could be expected on the basis of the advertisement.
Referral selling is the practice where a business induces potential customers to purchase their goods or services by promising some form of reward if they provide the names of other people who then buy goods or services from that business.
Consumers could be misled into believing that the true price of goods or services will be discounted because of a rebate, commission or other benefit, when in fact they will only get the benefit if sales are made to these people.
An example of referral selling
Maria wanted to join a gym but was worried about the cost. Before Maria signed up, the gym offered her a 25 per cent rebate on a 12-month membership if she gave the gym names and telephone numbers of five of her friends and those five friends took out a membership.
This is illegal. Maria thought that if she got the rebate, the gym membership would be a good deal. So she signed up, paid the full price up front and gave the gym the names and telephone numbers of five of her friends. However, Maria didn't get the rebate as her friends didn't join the gym.
* This is a regular column from the Consumer Council of Fiji. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for feedback.