In the final stretch of the year, as Christmas approaches, shop windows and the streets begin to display the decorations and motifs typical of this time of year, and advertising in the media and on the internet for articles, goods and services typical of this period is also proliferating. This is a sign that can be used by consumers and users to put into practice a piece of advice that the Directorate General for Consumer Affairs stresses every year: plan and organise purchases as far in advance as possible.
The main recommendation is to exercise responsible consumption, whether in a physical shop or online, and this planning of purchases will be essential to avoid last-minute rushes and prevent compulsive and improvised purchases, as well as making it possible to compare prices and offers between different establishments. Consumer Affairs advises in this sense to buy only what you are going to need, and for this it can be very helpful to organise yourself on the basis of a prior shopping list and to set a budget limit.
These recommendations do not only apply to toys or gifts for Christmas or the Three Wise Men, but also to food products, which can also be purchased in advance, particularly those that can be stored (non-perishable) or frozen.
The rights that consumers have at this time of year are no different from the rest of the year, and Consumo reminds consumers that they should be duly informed about the return and exchange policies of each establishment, and, in the case of online purchases, consumers have, as a general rule, with certain exceptions, the right to withdraw from the contract concluded at a distance or outside the physical establishment, a right of which they should be informed. By means of withdrawal, it is possible, with certain exceptions, to cancel the contract without giving any reason and without penalty, within a period of 14 calendar days from the day on which the product is received, in the case of a sales contract, or from the day on which the contract was concluded, in the case of a contract for the provision of services.
When buying toys and video games, the Directorate General for Consumer Affairs stresses that these products must be suitable for the age of the person for whom they are intended, especially when the person is a minor. For video games, the PEGI Code, located on the packaging of the game, should be taken into account, which establishes a classification according to the recommended age, and warns of content such as violence, sex, foul language, or if they invite the purchase of virtual goods with real money.
The Consumer Affairs Department also encourages citizens to shop in local shops, in establishments in each neighbourhood, as this will not only help the local economy, but will also promote sustainability, with a smaller environmental footprint.
In addition to these purchases, the Christmas holidays are dates when there is a proliferation of getaways and trips, and the Consumer Affairs Department reminds us of the advisability of organising them through specialised agencies or official websites – when contracting services online – to avoid scams or fraudulent websites, and also to anticipate critical dates in order to avoid any setbacks, such as a lack of places. It is essential, as with all purchases and transactions, to keep all documentation, tickets and any electronic records generated, which are essential for any possible claims. This advice is also valid if hotel reservations have been made.
And pointing to New Year’s Eve, a large number of people go to the so-called cotillions or New Year’s Eve parties. It is important to find out in advance and compare prices, services and quality of services between the different events, as well as to keep the tickets in good condition and the publicity of the party or event, as both elements have contractual value, and therefore would be of great value if a claim were to be made.
If you have any doubts or queries about consumer affairs, citizens can contact Consumo Responde, a free information and advice service for consumers and users, promoted by the Ministry of Health and Families of the Andalusian Regional Government. This is a multi-channel service, which can be accessed continuously through the telephone number 900 21 50 80, the website www.consumoresponde.es, the e-mail email@example.com; and the Twitter (@consumoresponde) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/consumoresponde) profiles.
Advice can also be obtained from the Provincial Consumer Services of the territorial delegations of Health and Families in all provincial capitals, as well as from the Municipal Consumer Information Offices (OMIC), and from consumer and user organisations.