Christmas consumer tips issued by county council's Trading Standards team

Top tips to avoid being out of pocket include thinking twice if shoppers come across what seem to be cheap deals on popular gifts and people ensuring they are protected should they change their mind on a purchase.

Advice is also being dispensed about how to shop safely online and what to do about returning unwanted presents.

Don't get caught out

Kate Davies, a team leader with Oxfordshire County Council's Trading Standards service, said: "Obviously we want everybody to enjoy Christmas and the festive season, however there are potential hazards which consumers could encounter which we would like them to be well aware of.

"Before buying presents it is advisable to check a seller's return policy and also when purchasing to obtain a receipt, which is then kept in a safe place to use as required.

"I am sure many people will be buying items online this Christmas, so it is important that they are aware of the potential pitfalls: buyers may get protection against fraud if they pay using a credit or debit card. People can look out also for the padlock symbol which indicates a secure website and also shoppers should never send credit card or bank details by email."

Fake goods

Recently customs seized in one go more than 170,000 fake and sub-standard toys and Christmas lights, which would have been destined to be sold to unsuspecting shoppers at seemingly bargain prices.

Counterfeit children's merchandise could pose potential hazards, such as loose parts; long cords or materials that are toxic or those that do not adhere to strict fire retardant standards.

Ms Davies said: "If shoppers see a seemingly too-good-to-be-true deal, then it probably is that. It could be a fake and a poor quality product, which may have a shorter lifespan than legitimate goods which could not meet strict safety standards.

"Counterfeit goods which commonly crop up around Christmas include designer clothes; watches and perfume - the simple advice is to steer of something if people think it is not a genuine product."

Follow the advice

Councillor Rodney Rose, the Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, who has Cabinet responsibility for Trading Standards, said: "It really does make sense for shoppers to follow the advice and which is designed to help them avoid being caught out over the festive period.

"Doing a few small things like keeping receipts or remembering to log-out of a website on a computer used by others after people have purchased items could save a lot of hassle."

Top tips:

  • Buyers should be aware of cheap fakes - such products could be unsafe and or poor quality
  • Before buying presents shoppers should check sellers' return policies and obtain and retain a receipt, for proof of purchase
  • Buyers should be wary of traders who have a PO Box as their contact address and also of Christmas shops which pop-up, as they often disappear with no-one left to contact
  • Purchasers may get extra protection when using a credit card to buy products
  • Pay day lenders often charge high interest rates - if people cannot afford a product they are advised not to take out a pay day lender loan, as more debt could mount up
  • Written confirmation should be sought regarding products being delivered on time, to ensure they are with buyers by Christmas
  • When buying online, shoppers should use secure sites and never send payment or bank details by email