WHEN is a price reduction for real?
When shopping in the post-Christmas sales last week I bought a jacket that had allegedly been reduced in price by 50pc.
When I showed the jacket to a friend she said that the jacket had already been reduced in price before Christmas. Does this mean that the price 'reduction' was bogus, and if so do I have any rights?
This year, with December's snow and ice having kept tens of thousands of customers at home, many retailers started their winter sales before, rather than after, Christmas.
This may well be what happened in Maura's case.
However, regardless of what happened in this particular incident, the rules governing retailers' price reductions in sales are clear.
Basically, retailers can only claim that an item has been reduced in price if it had been previously offered for sale at the higher price for at least a month beforehand.
This means that if Maura's retailer had offered her jacket for sale at the previous higher price for 30 days then she has no recourse, even if the price was first cut before rather than after Christmas.
It is only if the jacket hadn't been offered for sale at the previous higher price for at least a month that Maura has a case against the retailer.
This would mean that the price 'reduction' was, as she alleges, bogus.
In practice, there is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to retailers' price 'reductions'.
It is not unknown for retailers to deliberately put over-priced merchandise on sale at the back of the store well before Christmas, fully expecting to sell little if any of it at full price, in order to conform to the one-month rule. This then allows them to claim, perfectly legally of course, that the price of the item has in fact been reduced.
My advice to anyone thinking of purchasing items in the sales is to have first checked the pre-Christmas prices.
This is the only way of being sure that you are getting a bargain and that you are not falling for any phoney price reductions.
I AM finding it increasingly difficult to make my monthly mortgage repayments. Both my wife and I have had our salaries cut. We know that we should contact our bank and inform them that we are experiencing difficulties.
However, if we do, we are worried that it will force us to give up our tracker mortgage in return for helping us with our problems.
What should we do?
Kevin's fears about losing his tracker mortgage are not entirely unfounded.
There have been reports of some banks forcing customers who have got into difficulty with their mortgage repayments to switch to much more expensive variable-rate variable mortgages in return for rescheduling payments.
However, under the new Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, which was published by the Financial Regulator last month, the banks are now banned from forcing customers who get into difficulties with their mortgage to switch from a tracker to another type of mortgage.
Under the code, the banks are also banned from imposing penalty rates of interest on homeowners who are in arrears on their mortgage repayments.
This means that Kevin should contact his bank about the problems he is experiencing meeting his mortgage repayments as soon as possible.
Once he has notified his bank of his difficulties he is protected by the code.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that, with the banks losing an absolute fortune on tracker mortgages, even where the borrowers are up to date on their repayments, the banks are going to pull out all of the stops to extricate themselves from tracker mortgages in 2011.