Black Friday sweep nets 10 merchants violating consumer laws

Some economics ministry inspectors went into stores and malls in four provinces Friday to make sure that merchants were telling the truth.

The ministry’s Dirección de Apoyo al Consumidor or consumer division said it found 10 of 48 sales outlets in violations for one or more rules specified in the country’s laws.

The rules say that a price must be displayed, that discounts cannot be less than advertised and that there should be no difference in the discount whether the buyer pays cash or uses a credit card.

These were the principal violations.

The consumer agency, part of the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, periodically checks up on merchants. In this case they visited locations in the provinces of San José, Heredia, Alajuela and Cartago.

Friday was Black Friday, the marketing ploy that originated in the United States for the day following Thanksgiving.  Although Costa Ricans do not celebrate Thanksgiving, several Fridays in a row have been labeled Black Friday. The merchants on this day are supposed to offer big discounts and great deals on goods in anticipation of Christmas giving.

The ministry said that three merchants were so far off in providing information to the public that a formal complaint was filed. In other cases, the inspectors pointed out the errors to the management.

The consumer agency has a complaint line, 800 CONSUMO (800 266 78 66), which has received 94 calls about trick advertising and purchase restrictions that were not advertised. The call line is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The consumer agency has been flooding merchants with information for the last four weeks. There are 997 sales outlets on the agency’s list.

Inspectors checked 30 printed advertisements and said that 27 did not comply with the law. The firms were asked formally to amend their advertising, the agency said.

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