Are you a savvy consumer? Do you pity the poor merchant that tries to pull as fast one on you? Play our Are You a Good Consumer? game to find out. The answers are at the bottom of this page.
1. TRUE OR FALSE? My refrigerator stopped working just three weeks after the warranty expired, so I’m out of luck.
Separate from any written warranty you may get from the store or manufacturer, state laws require that most products come with a so-called implied warranty of merchantability, an unwritten assurance that they will be free of substantial defects and last a reasonable amount of time (although implied warranties generally last for no more than four years). While merchants can get around this by selling products using such terms as "as-is", 11 states (Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) and Washington, D.C. don’t allow merchants to sell items as-is. And you'll rarely see as-is sales in walk-in stores, even where they're allowed. But that's not the case with most manufacturers and retail websites, where implied warranty disclaimers are common. Read a manufacturer's warranty or website's terms and conditions to see what we mean.
What to do: If a product is defective or breaks in an unreasonably short period, ask the retailer and/or manufacturer to make good. If that doesn't work and you want to assert your implied warranty rights, you might consider suing in small claims court or contacting an attorney experienced in consumer law. Another option, if you purchased the item using a credit card, is to check whether the card automatically extends the manufacturer’s warranty for up to a year or so.
2. TRUE OR FALSE?: A store has a sign requiring a $10 minimum purchase for credit card transactions. I didn’t have any other form of payment with me, so I was out of luck for the $8.99 item I wanted to buy.
Until 2010, this probably would have been false because of credit card network rules prohibiting merchants from imposing credit card minimums. But at the behest of business groups, Congress added a little-known provision to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act allowing merchants to impose a minimum purchase requirement of up to $10 for credit card purchases, as long as they treat all credit cards the same.
What to do: The easiest thing is to carry some cash just in case you encounter this in a walk-in store. Or you can buy an additional item to meet the $10 threshold, as long as it’s something you actually want and the price is right. Another option may be to use a debit card. But since debit cards don’t provide the same protections as credit cards—an important consideration when buying online—it’s probably best to shop elsewhere.
3. TRUE OR FALSE?: If I successfully dispute a purchase with my credit card issuer the company that initially charged my card still can legally pursue me.
Just because you’re credit card issuer gave you a chargeback doesn’t mean a company can’t go after you, perhaps by hiring a collection agency or even filing a lawsuit.
What to do: If you have a problem with a product or service, try working things out with the business that provided it first. Before requesting a chargeback, make sure you’re in the right. Just because you didn’t like a product you purchased doesn’t automatically give you the right to dispute the charge.