Shopping for Mom is fraught with many pitfalls, ministry finds

Not even a mother could be proud of a family member who gets swindled on apparent deals. That’s why, as Costa Rica’s version of Mother’s Day this Friday nears, the Ministerio de Economía Industria y Comercio released a consumer protection report warning of false advertising or overpriced promotions for the holiday.

The report, which surveyed 132 stores in San José, Alajuela, and Heredia, found reporting errors in nearly a third of the establishments. Most errors came from not revealing the previous price of a sale item. Another irregularity found by the ministry was having deals only available through cash payments.

Importadora Monge, the Costa Rican electronics and home supply firm, was found to have incorrectly calculated the annual interest rate by 16 percent on a refrigerator. The ministry gave the company a  warning that it had 10 days to fix the error and also sent the complaint to the country’s consumer commission.

Of the 37 stores that were found to have not complied with consumer regulations, 12 are located in Mall San Pedro and seven on Avenida Segunda in the center of San José. The report said a second field study will take place to confirm that such stores have corrected these problems.

In addition, the study analyzed ads in local newspapers and found that 42 percent of those reviewed had misleading promotions for Mother’s Day, including those that didn’t put in an explicit expiration date for the limited deal or didn’t elaborate on stated restrictions.

In all, 57 warnings were handed out for both in-store and advertising consumer compliance failures. The study released Monday was carried out between July 29 and Aug. 4.

Vice minister Geaninna Dinarte, who authored the report, said this information is crucial for shopper’s who should do their homework before getting mom’s gift.

“In dealing with financial information, the consumer’s effort to achieve clarity and understanding should be better,” Ms. Dinarte said. “And companies are called on to advise and provide their clients with clear and sufficient information, not only before credit transaction but also throughout the whole shopping process.”

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