Beware of sales scams

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Authorities urge consumers to be aware of potential discount scams during the winter sales season.

Consumer protection services and watchdog organisations have warned that “loopholes” in legislation leaves room for price manipulation.

Although winter sales officially get off the ground in January, some retailers have launched their sales campaigns straight after Christmas.

The Cyprus Consumers Association reports it has received tens of complaints about stores trying to ‘cheat’ their customers just days into the winter sales season.

In comments to news website Stockwatch, the association chair, Marios Drousiotis, said they were informed of some retailers trying to “methodically trick consumers”.

“Some businesses raise prices one day and discount them the next day, thus misleading consumers.

“That’s why we advise consumers to be doubly careful about discounts as the law does not cover them, should they find their purchase was sold at the same or lower price before the sales campaign.”

Acting director of the Commerce Ministry’s department of consumer protection Antonis Ioannou told Stockwatch the government is aware of loopholes and is working on a bill to amend the legislation.

Ioannou acknowledged the weakness of the law covering discounts and explained the legal service is drafting an amendment that will close the gaps, which allow for confusion in the market when it comes to fake discounted prices.

“Under the current legislation, consumers can easily be deceived; we are promoting an amendment, according to which a discount should be applied on the price tag the product had carried for the past 30 days,” Ioannou said.

He added the retailer would be obliged to present legal proof of the price the item was last sold.

Ioannou urged consumers to be very careful with all their transactions, especially those carried out online, noting that some entrepreneurs take advantage of shopper ignorance.

“We are all for sales, but sales on price tags, not on quality.

“Consumers should pay extra care when buying toys for children and should check for an EU safety certificate. ”

The general secretary of the small shopkeepers’ association POVEK, Stephanos Koursaris, said he was pushing for the return of fixed sales periods designated by government decree.

Noting that retailers prefer to run their own sales campaigns in recent years, he argued that organised sales periods would reinstate a healthy competitive environment.