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Buying Goods or Services

There are different ways to pay for goods and services. You can pay in cash, but it is not a good idea to carry large amounts of cash. Most people use cheques, debit cards or credit cards to make purchases, especially larger ones.

You will need to open a bank account to get cheques, a debit card or a credit card.  You can choose from a number of different financial institutions. Banking fees will vary so you may want to check out your options. If you open a chequing account you will get cheques to use. You will also usually get a debit card. With a debit card you can take your money out from bank machines. You can also use your debit card to pay for things in stores. If you want a credit card, you will have to apply for one. Credit cards allow you to buy things and pay for them later, but you will be charged interest on your purchases.

You have certain rights when you are buying goods or services. Goods could include things like food, clothing, jewelry or appliances. Services could include things such as car repairs or home renovations. Knowing what protections exist can help you make wise choices with your money.

If something is advertised as free is it always free?

It is very rare for anything to be really free. Sometimes the cost of a free item is built into the price of another item being purchased. For example, a car that comes with a free satellite radio may just cost more than a car that comes without it. Free samples and prizes often come with a catch that involves you paying something. For example, a company might offer a free item but charge enough for shipping to cover the cost of the item and the shipping.

Can a store charge you more than the price on the price tag?

Yes. Sometimes you get to the till and find out the item was priced incorrectly. You may be asked to pay the higher, correct price. You can then decide whether to buy it or not. However, if there are two price tags, the store must sell the item for the lower price.

If I get an estimate from a company before I have work done, can they charge me more for the work?

It depends. If both you and the service provider sign the estimate, they generally cannot charge more without your agreement. In other cases, the price is just an approximate amount and your actual bill could be higher. Always ask whether the price could change before hiring someone based on an estimate.

If I pay a deposit on something and decide not to go ahead with the purchase, will I get my money back?

No, unless the store has agreed to it.

I bought something from a salesperson that came to my door. What happens if I decide I do not want it?

In most cases, the law says you can return the goods within 10 days and get your money back. However, this law will not help if you cannot find the person. Do not be pressured into a quick sale. It is a good idea not to pre-pay for something that will be delivered later.

I received something in the mail that I did not order. Do I need to send it back or pay for it?

If you know that the goods were sent to you by mistake, you must return them or pay for them. Otherwise you do not have to return them or pay for them. However, if you agree in writing to accept the goods you must pay for them.

Returning or Cancelling

In most situations you do not have the automatic right to return goods or cancel services just because you changed your mind. It is a good idea to only buy goods or hire someone when you are certain that is what you want to do. For information on dealing with defective goods, see Quality of Goods.

The sign at the store said returns are allowed within 10 days with the receipt. Now the store will not take it back. Can they do this?

If the store posts a return policy they need to honour it. Otherwise, they do not have to allow returns. Always check the fine print, which might have other conditions. For example, an item might need to be in its original packaging or have its tags still attached.

My friend gave me a gift card. Can I return it for cash if the store says they take returns?

No. Gifts cards cannot be returned. However, they do not expire, so you can keep it to use later or give it to someone else.

I signed up for a gym membership but I am having second thoughts. What can I do?

You can cancel without any reason for up to 7 days after you are given a copy of the contract. After that, you can cancel if you are no longer physically able to use the gym. You can also cancel if you move more than 30 kilometers away from where the gym is located. You have to give written notice that you are cancelling and provide supporting documents.

I bought a used car privately because the seller said it was in good working order but it stopped working within a few weeks. What can I do?

If the seller lied about the condition of the car you can cancel the contract and return the car. Sometimes it is difficult to show that the person lied. Things like “good working order” can mean different things. The seller can also argue that it was in good working condition at the time it was sold.

Quality of Goods 

Sometimes you buy something and it does not live up to your expectations. Maybe it does not do what the package said it would. Maybe it works fine at first but breaks down after only a few uses. If you bought the goods from a store, you are protected under the law from having to settle for defective goods. In some cases, sellers or manufactures may also offer to make it right.

I ordered a shelf set from a store. The description said it was 3 feet high and had 4 levels. When it arrived, I found out it is very small and only has 2 levels. Does the store have to give me my money back?

Things that are sold must match their advertised description. A small difference might be ok, but if goods are not as described they can be returned for a full refund.

The blender I bought stopped working after only a few uses. Is there anything I can do about it?

Goods must be of acceptable quality. They must be durable for a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, they can be returned for a refund. If they break down quickly you need to show that you did not cause the breakdown by misusing the goods.

I bought a drying rack but it is so flimsy that I can’t even put one wet item on it without it collapsing.

Goods must be fit for the purpose they are sold for or they can be returned for a refund. If the item was sold as a clothes drying rack and you cannot use it to do this, it is not fit for the purpose it was sold for.

My coffee maker came with a warranty card that said parts would be replaced at no charge for the first year. Can I rely on this warranty?

Maybe - there are often exceptions and conditions in the fine print. You may need to register the product to get the warranty. The parts may be free but you might need to pay shipping and labour costs to make the repairs.

Published on October 21, 2016.

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