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Top Consumer Myths

June 1, 2012
A young woman shopping for clothes.

Consumers can lose thousands of dollars a year due to common misconceptions about their rights. The rules and restrictions regarding purchases, donations, and other business transactions are not always transparent, causing unfamiliar consumers a loss in assets and time.

Below are the top 5 myths consumers should be familiar with. For a full list, visit the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.

MYTH 1 - I have a three-day right to cancel any purchase (including new and used car purchases).

FACT: There is no universal right to cancel purchases. A three-day right to cancel exists for only a limited number of consumer transactions. For the most part, the three-day right to cancel applies only to credit or cash transactions of $25 or more that were initiated through face-to-face contact (such as door-to-door sales) away from the seller's regular place of business and that resulted in a written agreement. The three-day right-to-cancel provision does not cover purchases of real estate, insurance or securities.

MYTH 2 - A store has to give me a refund if I request one.

FACT: Georgia does not have any law that requires a business to provide a refund or accept returns. A business may set its own return policy and may offer consumers cash, in-store credit, exchanges or no adjustment at all. Many stores also set time limits during which they accept returns. While not required to post their policies, businesses must honor any posted refund or return policy.

MYTH 3 - When I receive an "award notification," I am a guaranteed winner.

FACT: One of the most common types of fraud involves phony prize offers. Although it is tempting to think you could be a winner, proceed very cautiously, because in all likelihood you will not be the winner. No matter how the offer is packaged, they almost always cost you money. It's not a prize if you must make a purchase, provide a donation or send an advance payment for taxes, handling fees or processing charges; in fact, Georgia law prohibits charging for a prize.

Any promotion in Georgia must disclose clearly the verifiable retail value of each prize offered; the odds of receiving each prize if an element of chance is involved; any limitations on eligibility; the geographic area covered by the notice; and which, if any, prize you would receive for attending a seminar or presentation. Additionally, a list of all winners must be made available.

MYTH 4 - I have a better chance of winning a publisher's sweepstakes when I purchase magazines.

FACT:  Since it is illegal for sweepstakes promotions to require any type of purchase or payment, entrants who do not purchase magazines must be given the same chance of winning publishers' sweepstakes as those who do make purchases.

MYTH 5 - There is a lemon law that protects purchasers on all big-ticket items, including used cars.

FACT:   While all 50 states have lemon laws that cover new car purchases, there is no universal "lemon law" that applies to every big-ticket item.   Georgia’s Lemon Law covers only motor vehicles purchased or leased new.  Before buying a used car or other used item, you should investigate its history and have it checked out by a mechanic or someone knowledgeable of the product.