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Measure Would Provide On-The-Spot Rebates [AUDIO]

Rebates
Flickr User Allen DeWitt

Legislation that would force retailers to charge consumers an advertised after-rebate price – rather than making buyers send in coupons or log on to manufacturer’s web sites to claim their savings – is advancing at the State House. Stores that advertise a product’s “net price” – the price after a manufacturer’s rebate is applied – would be required to charge that price at the time of sale.

It then would be a retailer’s responsibility to complete the rebate redemption process.

“We’ve cut red tape for businesses and now we must cut red tape for consumers,” says Assemblyman John Burzichelli, one of the bill’s four sponsors. “Customers should not be deceptively lured into stores by low prices that only exist after they take the product home, cut apart the packaging, fill out aggravating paperwork, and then wait weeks or months for a check. Retailers who want to advertise a ‘post-rebate’ price as the actual cost to the consumer should be the ones who have to jump through hoops to claim a money-back offer.”

Assembly Budget Committee chairman Vincent Prieto says, “This bill would not prevent manufacturers from offering rebates to New Jersey consumers, but would only prohibit stores from deceptively passing off a net price to unwitting customers. It’s a consumer protection measure that makes common sense.”

The bill would allow retailers to advertise rebates by displaying the net price of the item of merchandise if the actual selling price of the merchandise is disclosed in the same font and size as the net price and clear and conspicuous notice is provided in the advertisement that a mail-in rebate is required to achieve the lower net price.

“Research show that about 40 percent of manufacturer rebates are never redeemed, costing consumers more than $2 billion annually,” says Assemblyman John Wisniewski. “This bill doesn’t prevent rebates from being offered, but simply brings more truth in advertising, which is always a good thing.”

Violations of the measure would be punishable under the state’s consumer fraud act, with fines of up to $10,000 for a first offense. Repeat offenses could be punished by up to $20,000 in fines, as well as injunctive relief, triple damages, and restitution.

“Quite simply, the price shown in the newspaper should be the price the consumer pays at the cash register,” says Assemblyman Paul Moriarty. “Filling out rebate forms can be confusing, complicated, and drawn-out. Consumers should not have to navigate a sea of fine print and corporate red tape when they could have been charged an honest price to begin with.”

The bill has been approved by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee and awaits scheduling for a vote in the full Assembly.

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