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Shopping Made Easier: Disclaimers Exposed

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By NEELA RAMSUNDAR

 

It’s that time of the year again! The Christmas season has begun and with it, lots and lots of shopping to be done! Whether you find it a chore or exciting, as always, there are people or circumstances that can make the holiday shopping more tedious than it should be.

This week’s article exposes three types of disclaimer notices you encounter when shopping, which may have caused you to question your rights as a customer or visitor to a store.

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  1. Parking Disclaimers: “NOTICE: USERS OF THIS CAR PARK DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK. MANAGEMENT DOES NOT ACCEPT LIABILITY FOR ANY ACCIDENTS, DAMAGE, OR LOSS INCURRED.”

We see this disclaimer notice, or close variations of it, everywhere. But, should something go wrong, the owner of the car park may not be in the clear!

Now, asides from the legal aspect of it, these notices/signs may be effective against some users of the car park who unfortunately suffered some type of damage. They read the sign, accept it at face value and walk (or drive) away (if they can). So, that’s a win for the car park owner.

But for the others who know their rights, or seek legal advice, these disclaimers may not have any effect at all where the damage to you or your car was caused by some act of negligence by the owner of the car park.

Here’s an example. You arrived at one of our country’s large shopping malls. Suppose it’s raining heavily. You’re driving slowly and cautiously, yet nothing could have prevented you from driving into a massive crater on the mall’s road, which you couldn’t see because the pothole was filled with rainwater. Your car suffers damage, and you yourself are pretty shaken up. If the existence of that pothole was due to negligence on the part of the mall owners, then that disclaimer notice may be completely invalid to absolve of them of liability for your loss and any injuries.

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  1. “You break it, you pay for it”

Here’s another sign we see all the time, particularly in stores where the owners know they have insufficient walking space. Again, some folks will not know better and think they are obligated to pay for an item they damaged while in the store. But no! This is not always the case!

You are not at fault for the damage if: you exercised due care and attention while in the store; the breakage or damage was due to some event outside your control (e.g. someone pushed you against a shelf causing a crystal vase to wobble and fall); or caused by the actions of the shop owners or their staff.

A shop sign can warn you in advance to take special care around certain items, or to not touch items that are fragile, and if you don’t comply you may have to pay for the damaged item. But if, for instance, the shop puts items on an unstable shelf, which triggered the breakage when you lifted an item, you should not be held responsible.

Then again, despite how much we want to look at some items in a particular store, if you notice the walkways are cramped and there are breakables on shaky looking shelves, it may be wise to avoid a potential incident and patronise their better organised competitor.

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  1. “No returns, no exchanges, no refunds”:

Here’s another species of notorious disclaimers. We frequently see them next to cash registers in stores where the shop owners try to leave the impression on naive customers that all sales are final.

In our country, these notices and practices are illegal. Generally speaking, consumers have a right to receive goods that are of merchantable quality (i.e. undamaged, usable and of sufficient quality to merit purchase at the requested price by a reasonable buyer) and reasonably fit (or durable) for the purpose it was sold. So, if you buy something that you found to be damaged or defective within reasonable timeframe thereafter, you do have a right to redress.

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There are some exceptions, though. For example, where specific defects were brought to your attention before you bought the item, such as in “scratch and dent” sales.

Now that these declaimers have been exposed, know your rights, and assert them when you have to. Happy shopping!

© Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general informative purposes only. It does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney – client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney-at-Law of your choosing directly.

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1 Comment

  • Very useful article and well written clear and easily understood by all

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