Black Friday, Christmas shopping, rebates. Predictably, the consumer fever will not stop in January, a month in which traditionally, after the feast of Kings, many shops display the posters announcing the discounts. Although the law admits rebates in any period and each trade can carry them out freely, this month's is the first big campaign of the year. Given the multitude of offers, however, it is not always clear to what extent the product you want to buy is really a bargain. And the false discounts, when they exist, "are very difficult to detect", admits Ileana Izverniceanu, spokesperson for the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU).
However, the Retail Trade Management Law is very clear: "Whenever items are offered with a price reduction, the previous price must be clearly shown, together with the reduced price, in each of them," reza Article 20. But it does not apply to any price that a certain product has had previously, but this must be "the lowest that would have been applied on identical products in the preceding 30 days". Despite this, there are subterfuges to circumvent the regulations, according to the spokesperson for the Federation of Associations of Consumers in Action (Facua), Rubén Sánchez, who points out the four most common.
The first, perhaps "the crudest", in his words, is to invent the discount, that is, continue selling the product at the same price as before, even if it is claimed to be applying a discount. "Another formula is to sell a product that was not previously commercialized, put a price on it and say it's a rebate," says Sánchez. And, according to Facua, there are many chains that manufacture or buy items to market them exclusively during the discount season.
Playing with the percentage of the rebate is another way to deceive the consumer, always in the opinion of Sánchez. "The trade can say that such a product has a discount of 40%, when it may have 15% or 20%". It is also possible that the percentage of the discount is correct, but it is not applied on the lowest price that the product has had in the last month, but on the last price at all. An amount that, not so casually, has been retouched upwards just before the discount period.
In the past Black Friday, this could have been the case Huawei smartphone Y7 2018 sold by the Worten electronics chain. "From 13 to 18 November, Worten announced an 'offer' in which the price of this model amounted to 159 euros, and in which the previous price that was crossed out was 179 euros," they say from the OCU. The organization, however, maintains "that the price of that smartphone in that same trade on October 23 was 139.67 euros", so "the final price is higher than the product had the previous month." At the end of November, the OCU filed a complaint in this regard against Worten before the Directorate General of Commerce and Consumer Affairs of the Community of Madrid.
Track and compare
What weapons do consumers have in the face of false discounts? Between January, February, July and August, which are months of discount, and Black Friday, Cyber Monday, special weeks and other commercial events, it is very possible that "most of the products have discounts for five or six months", highlights Sánchez. Since, finally, it can be considered that each article has two or three different prices during the same year, in his opinion it is fundamental to identify the period in which the product we want to acquire is more convenient.
"Do not suddenly buy that computer or that washing machine that you need, go looking for dates of special offers, do a tracking of how much the same product cost in the past months and compare between the different stores", suggests Facua spokesperson . True, spending a few hours researching may seem cumbersome and impractical, but "it will always be a small part of the work that costs us to earn the money we invest in that purchase," he adds.
The role of the Autonomous Communities
But more than in consumer education, it is in the role of the Administration that Sánchez insists. "We miss more controls from the authorities of the Autonomous Communities," says Facua's spokesman, for whom the Consumer Councils should monitor prices in the weeks leading up to the rebates to later investigate the veracity of the discounts. This operation would require "some effort", he admits, "but it should focus mainly on large stores and after an assessment of the benefits that would bring to the consumer, the fight against fraud and the public coffers."
Faced with a false rebate, a consumer can always claim to trade. If the proof that there has been a falseness in the discount is very solid, however, for Sanchez should also file a complaint with the relevant regional authorities, to request the opening of a disciplinary proceeding. "It is usually done very little, and that is due to the few incentives that the Administration offers", denounces Sanchez. "As it never transcends a fine for fraud in the sales, the perception that we have consumers is that there is no control of the market," he concludes.