|Trading Up - Business Booming For Consumer Watchdogs
It maybe a new year but for Wigan's Trading Standards' team it's very much business as usual.
And at the start of the year's first working week the team is reporting a record-breaking number of complaints coming in to its consumer hotline.
Trading Standards officers have been taking an average of more than one call every five minutes from concerned and irate members of the public who have consumer-related complaints.
And the biggest topic by far is the January sales.
Chief Trading Standards officer Alan Blundell says: "January is always our busiest month and the first week in January is the busiest week of the year but this year looks like being busier than ever.
"Many people have already called in to ask for information and advice about goods they have bought or sales offers they are not sure about."
"Typically people are complaining about such things as further reductions on sales items which some are claiming are not being honoured when the get to the checkout.
"Many people have queries about goods they have bought in the sales which appear to be faulty."
Mr Blundell adds: "We are dealing with as many queries as we can but we are also urging shoppers to be aware of some of the major pitfalls before they set out for the high street.
"The vast majority of retailers are entirely honest but arming yourself with a little bit of knowledge about how the game is played will never be a bad thing.
"When it comes to sales reductions, it's always a good idea to look at how much an item costs, not by how much it has been reduced.
"If it says 50 per cent off, ask yourself 50 per cent off what? Was it ever really on sale at the higher price?"
The advice to bargain hunters is to shop around there are many genuine bargains but don't be taken in by claims of huge price reductions.
Another popular trick from some retailers is to buy in stock specifically for the January sales. Any price reduction claims cannot be valid because the items have never been on sale at a higher price.
Also watch out for vague claims like 'worth', 'normal high street price' or 'sale price' because they are meaningless.
Mr Blundell says: "Even certain 'buy one, get one free' offers should be treated with caution. It is not uncommon for such offers to be alternated with 'half-price' offers so in reality the goods have never been on sale for their claimed full price."
- Shoppers can find more information about sales advice on the Trading Standards' pages at Wigan Council's website www.wiganmbc.gov.uk
- You can contact Wigan's Trading Standards team on 01942 827666.