Just Like New

Q: Are there any laws that protect the consumer when purchasing refurbished products, specifically electronics? Do the same laws apply when purchases are made over the Internet?
–Grace White, Brooklyn, New York

A: According to Sheila Adkins, public affairs manager at the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc. in Arlington, Virginia, there is no comprehensive federal legislation regarding the sale of refurbished goods-electronic or otherwise. “Most companies, online and offline, have their own return/refund policies,” she says. Retailers usually advertise that a product has been used or is refurbished, and will often sell merchandise “as is.”

As merchants are under no legal obligation to inform the consumer that a product has been refurbished, it’s up to the customer to shop wisely and ask questions. To avoid fraud, it helps to “know if you want a brand-new product or if a refurbished product is an option,” says Adkins. “Be familiar with the retailer you’re buying the product from, and research brands and features. Understand the store’s return policy and get [the policy] in writing if you can.” You might also want to see how the store checks out on the Better Business Bureau’s Website, www.bbb.org.

Sheila Adkins is the public affairs manager at the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc.

Mail your consumer questions to Ask Your Advocate, black enterprise, 130 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011, or send an e-mail to brownmr@blackenterprise.com.

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