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Knowledge can help you sort through the claims and promises made by sellers to entice you to buy.

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In Saskatchewan consumers are protected by laws against unfair advertising practices* such as:

  • Claiming goods meet a standard they do not.
  • Claiming to have sponsorship approval they do not have.
  • Representing used goods as new.
  • Representing goods as a special deal when they are not.
  • Making false claims.
  • Not giving reasonable prominence to the total price.
  • Extras that add up to the total cost only in the fine print.
  • Advertising a special sale if the seller could reasonably know the goods would not be available.
  • Getting customers into the store with promises of sale items but having no or very few of these in-stock.

*these protections do not apply to private sales

Advertising Terms

Even though there are laws and industry standards concerning advertising, your best protection is to be aware of advertising ploys that can mislead you into thinking you are getting a great deal when you are not. Some terms regularly used to "hook" consumers include:

Discount: A term that does not really mean anything without more information. You have to know what it is discounted from. For example, a store may discount an item from what they were selling it at last week but it still might cost more than the same item at "full price" at another store. To determine if a discount price is truly a bargain you need to shop around and see what it sells for elsewhere.

Free: One of the most misleading words in the consumer world. Rarely will salespeople and businesses give anything away "free". For example, you may find that a car dealer will drop the price of a car if you do not want the "free" gasoline that comes with every car purchased at the dealership. Also if you decide to take advantage of "free samples" or "prizes" online be wary of any offer that requires you to enter your credit card information. This is generally a good indication that somewhere in the fine print you have actually agreed to purchase something.

Guaranteed: A meaningless term by itself. Guaranteed for what? To last one week? It is important to know and understand the terms of the guarantee or warranty, not just the fact that it is "guaranteed".

Suggested List Price: Price that the manufacturer puts on a product. So-called "deals' at less than the list price can be deceptive. To know whether it is a deal or not you have to know if the item is usually sold for the suggested list price.

Wholesale: The price a retail seller pays their supplier for goods that are re-sold to consumers (at a higher price). Retailers do not sell goods to the general public at true "wholesale" prices. It is possible to buy a TV from a retailer at a "wholesale" price of $499 only to find the same one in another store for $409.

Weasel Words: Sometimes advertisements will make claims about a product but use weasel words that make the claim meaningless. For example – This mouthwash helps destroy bad breath.

Bait and Switch: when consumers are "baited" with advertisements of a particular item at a good price. Once they get to the store, the sales person will not sell the item because they say it is inferior or they have sold out. The salesperson then uses high pressure sales tactics to sell the consumer a more expensive item. Sellers must have reasonable quantities of products they advertise at bargain prices.

Scams & Fraud

Sometimes false or misleading advertising goes beyond just trying to make a product look better than it is. Sometimes there is no product or service. Sometimes the product or service being offered actually has no value.

Examples of common frauds or scams include:

  • Prize scams: Telling someone they have won or have a chance to win something but to claim the prize they must purchase something first or pay an advance fee, such as taxes, when there is no prize.
  • Sale of fraudulent securities: Sale of investments that do not exist.
  • Recovery scams: A victim who lost money in a previous scam, is approached by someone claiming to work for a government agency, private company or consumer organization and told that they can help recover the lost money for a fee.

See the Government of Saskatchewan list of Scams and Frauds Targeting Saskatchewan Residents for details about scams and frauds currently targeting people in Saskatchewan.

Know your rights when purchasing goods or services. Unfair practices can be reported to the Consumer Protection Division by emailing Consumers who suffer a loss due to an unfair practice can sue the seller and, if they are successful, may be awarded damages.

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