How to protect yourself when shopping online?

How to protect yourself when shopping online?

Considering the mass development of the internet and technology, many consumers find it convenient to do holiday shopping online. Shopping online can help save gas money, allows a consumer to easily compare prices, and can offer extra customization options for select products and services. Ohio consumers making purchases online are protected by the Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), which is a series of regulations and rules the lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. have experience working with.

The CSPA protects consumers from misleading, unfair, and bad business practices. It makes the businesses recognize and honor all promises and warranties, and prevents them from taking advantage of consumers. In Ohio, lawsuits involving violations of the CSPA allow fee shifting. Therefore, if a business loses a lawsuit to a consumer, then the business may be required to pay all the attorney fees for the consumer.

Businesses who engage in online retailing are expected to comply with the CSPA. If a consumer purchases an item online but receives the wrong item in the mail, then the vender is required to correct the problem at no extra charge. Typically, online retailers will replace the item or refund the consumer. Details about resolving issues with online purchases are usually listed in the disclaimer or legal terms section of the order summary or receipt.

The Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule protects all orders placed over the internet and protects consumers who never receive products purchased online. This rule requires online retailers to follow the 30-day rule and ship online orders to consumers with a reasonable time period of 30 days. If the online retailer cannot fulfill the 30-day rule, the retailer must ask permission from the consumer to ship an order late or refund their order.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, it is also illegal for a retailer to charge a consumer for an item that may have been shipped but was never delivered. Packages can be stolen, delivered to the wrong address, or misplaced. If the online retailer refuses to refund the consumer for an order that was never delivered, then the consumer may try to contact the charge card company they used to pay. The charge card company may be willing to refund the consumers money for the troublesome transaction.

Consumers shopping online should also take precautions when buying products from foreign companies located outside the United States. Prices may not be listed in U.S. dollars and consumers may get charged with a currency exchange fee. Shipping will be more expensive and most likely take longer too. If a consumer never receives a package shipping from another country, correcting the order will be extremely difficult. Most online retailers require consumers to correct the problem in the retailers’ local court. So, if the retailer is located in Japan, you may have to go to Japan to fix the problem.

Selling products and services online is a great way for retailers to market themselves to more consumers. Retailers can also sell items online that they may not have instore. Whether the retailer is selling products in a store or online, the retailer is expected to follow the regulations of the CSPA. The consumer lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. are experts at handling lawsuits involving the CSPA and can help consumers who have been misled and bullied by businesses during a transaction. Call us today at (614) 944-5219 for a consultation.


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Craigslist Buyers Have Rights Under the CSPA

Craigslist Buyers Have Rights Under the CSPA

In 2012, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against a Cincinnati man for failing to deliver goods he offered for sale on Craigslist, charging him with violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (the “CSPA”). Kevin L. Hunter of Cincinnati was charged by the Ohio Attorney General for failing to deliver goods he offered for sale on Craigslist, primarily automobile tires and rims. State and federal databases indicated that victims lost more than $50,000 to Hunter over seven years.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit charged the man with multiple violations of Ohio’s CSPA, including failure to deliver, misrepresenting price advantages, and advertising and selling without possessing the goods to be sold. In the lawsuit, the Attorney General sought consumer restitution, injunctive relief, and civil penalties.

In a press statement, Attorney General DeWine stated, “It’s bad enough when a consumer ends up paying for shoddy workmanship or products that don’t perform as promised, but paying for something and getting nothing is outrageous.”

The scammer was found to have committed unfair and deceptive acts and practices in violation of the CSPA by: 1) accepting payments from consumers for goods and then failing to deliver the purchased goods and failing to return payments to consumers; 2) representing that specific price advantages existed, when they did not; 3) selling consumer goods without taking reasonable steps to acquire the goods necessary to complete the transactions; and 4) advertising and selling goods without having ownership or possession of the goods and failing to disclose that fact to buyers.

These acts constituted unconscionable acts and practices in violation of the CSPA where the scammer entered into consumer transactions while knowing of the inability of the consumers to receive substantial benefits from the subject of the consumer transactions. The Court found him liable for the scam and ordered him to pay $3,200 in consumer restitution and $50,000 in civil penalties.

The Craigslist scam has since been added to the Ohio Public Inspection File (“PIF”) database, located on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. The searchable Public Inspection File contains decisions from Ohio courts establishing those acts or practices deemed to violate Ohio’s consumer protection laws. While the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1345) prohibits unfair, deceptive or unconscionable acts by suppliers, the statute does not identify every prohibited practice. Such determinations are often left to the courts.

The CSPA allows for enhanced damages to be assessed against a supplier for a violation that has been previously addressed in an administrative rule or by any Ohio court if the Attorney General’s Office has that decision available in its Public Inspection File. In such a case, a consumer may recover three times the amount of actual damages or $200, whichever is greater.

If you have been the victim of this type of scam, or think you may have been involved in a consumer transaction that violated the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, call Doucet & Associates. We specialize in consumer defense and may be able to assist you in protecting and asserting your rights.


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