COLUMBUS — As consumers prepare for Ohio’s sales tax holiday and the upcoming school year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is offering consumer protection tips.
Complaints about shopping (both in stores and online) are one of the most common types of complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section, which logged about 1,170 such complaints in 2017. Commonly reported problem areas include refund or return issues, billing issues, and claims of misrepresentation.
“We know many people will be shopping this weekend during the sales tax holiday, and we want to help them make the most of it,” Attorney General DeWine said. “It’s a good time to save money on clothes and other items, and there are things consumers can to do help minimize the risk of problems.”
During the sales tax holiday, the following items are exempt from sales and use tax:
– Clothing priced at $75 per item or less;
– School supplies priced at $20 per item or less; and
– School instructional materials priced at $20 per item or less.
The Ohio Department of Taxation provides detailed information about the sales tax holiday on its website, including FAQs about what is and what is not exempt from sales tax during the holiday.
Tips for consumers include:
– Plan ahead. The sales tax holiday runs from Friday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018. Consider in advance the kind of purchases you want to make, and review the Department of Taxation’s FAQs to understand what is and what is not exempt from sales and use tax during the sales tax holiday. Also research sellers’ reputations by reading customer reviews and checking for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau.
– Understand return policies before you buy. In Ohio, sellers can choose to set their own return policies, including policies of “no returns,” but they should clearly tell you what their return policy is before you check out or complete the transaction. For example, the return policy shouldn’t be posted only on the back of a receipt.
– Stay safe online. The tax holiday applies to qualifying online purchases in addition to qualifying in-store purchases. When shopping online, research websites you plan to use and make sure your connection is secure before you enter any personal information or payment details. (In the web address, look for the “s” in “https” or a lock symbol.) Also consider paying with a credit card, which generally gives you stronger protections to dispute unauthorized charges.
-Check the exclusions and limitations of an offer. Exclusions and limitations must be clearly disclosed in advertisements, including online, so review terms and conditions carefully before you go to the store or make a purchase.
-Keep your receipts. Maintaining a complete record of a sale will help you handle problems that may arise after the purchase. Keep receipts, copies of advertisements, photos of products, and other documentation until the transaction and billing process are complete.
-Monitor your accounts. Regularly check your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized charges or unexpected activity. If you find problems, immediately notify your credit card provider or bank. The sooner you identify a problem, the sooner you can work to correct it.
– Protect your personal information. Don’t carry around extra, unneeded credit cards, debit cards, or other sensitive information in your wallet or purse. Also limit giving out your personal information. Check privacy policies to see how sellers will use your information.
– Watch for scams. Con artists operate year round. If you receive an unexpected message saying there’s a problem with your computer or you’ve won a grant you never applied for, it’s likely a scam. Be wary if someone requires you to pay using a gift card, wire transfer, or money order. Con artists often ask for payment using one of these methods.
Consumers who need help addressing a consumer problem or question should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.