By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
National Consumer Protection Week is March 4-10, and my office will be holding several events around the state promoting this commemorative week. Consumer Protection is a priority of the attorney general’s office — not just this week but 12 months a year. This month’s Consumer Corner is a good chance to share some common-sense tips to help you be a better consumer.
As consumers, we have more power — and responsibility — than we think. Here are some ways to be better consumers:
Do your research
There should be no guessing when it comes to purchasing a product, whether you’re buying goods from a store, purchasing financial products or getting a loan. However, the provided information may not tell the whole story. You should research the products you plan to purchase. Ask for advice and recommendations from people you trust, check with consumer organizations and read reviews online. Get a sense for what items cost and how they compare with similar products.
Know the company
Are you working with and buying from local or reputable companies? In our growing online world of commerce it can be hard to tell, especially when the sales pitches comes online or over the phone. That’s why it’s also important to know with whom you are dealing, especially in industries that are ripe with potential fraud, like travel, home renovations and investments.
Read the fine print
Reading the fine print is a step many people still overlook. When we’re short on time or there’s a line up behind us at the store it’s easy to skim over contracts, warranties, exclusions and return policies. Experts warn to take the time to read through important information, ask questions and seek clarification if needed.
Another step we often skip: reading the directions and safety instructions before we use a product. The information may seem like common sense, but it’s up to consumers to know it and follow it.
Hold on to those receipts
In recent years many companies have become more consumer-friendly when it comes to returns or exchanges. Where did that receipt, policy or warranty go? If you’ve ever lost one of these documents, you know some businesses are more forgiving than others. It’s up to consumers to get the details in writing and keep documents safely filed away.
In addition, if there’s an issue you have to resolve, don’t forget to jot down the details of your progress. Try to note the specifics like the name of the clerk with whom you dealt, the date and time and what action was promised.
Stay informed about safety issues
It’s easy to stay informed when a major recall hits the news, but many issues do not make the news. For major items like a vehicle, the company will often send you a notice. However, you may have to do some searching for the dirt on other products. This information can be found online at www.recalls.gov. This is especially important for infant and health-related items.
It’s important for all of us to be savvy consumers 12 months a year. During National Consumer Protection Week set a goal to make these tips common everyday practices. As always feel welcome to contact my office if we can be of service. You find us online at www.ag.ks.gov or call our Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-432-2310.