DACO fines company for misleading advertisements
By John McPhaul
Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Edan Rivera Rodríguez announced over the weekend that the agency fined a local company for misleading advertisements.
“In recent weeks we have received many tips about businesses that, despite having ensured that merchandise would be available for delivery in a few days, have kept consumers waiting for months, without communicating with them and even without explaining the causes of the delay,” Rivera Rodríguez said in a written statement Saturday. “It is not possible that, more than a year after the pandemic, some businesses have not yet identified the appropriate measures for disclosing information that is no longer surprising to them, and that clearly the consumer should know before making a purchase.”
The secretary said that one of the businesses about which the most complaints have been received at DACO is Ikea Puerto Rico, a company against which the agency determined to impose a fine for misleading practices and advertisements. The company was fined for announcing on its website that merchandise will be available for collection or delivery in between three and five days, which complaints and grievances of consumers indicate is not the case.
“Nothing obliges businesses to deliver the merchandise in a certain time, but if they know that they are experiencing delays from their suppliers, they should inform consumers, so they can decide if this is a factor that will affect their purchase or not,” Rivera Rodríguez said.
For this reason, an administrative memo was issued by DACO with warnings applicable to any person, natural or legal, that offers goods or services for sale in Puerto Rico. It refers to practices that, under the guise of the pandemic, constitute a clear violation of the expressly recognized rights of consumers through the agency’s regulations.
“We are aware that COVID-19 has generated changes at all levels,” Rivera Rodríguez said. “We do not expect, in any way, to impose obligations on merchants that are impossible for them to fulfill. The only thing we demand of them is that they respect the basic principle of informing, clearly and adequately, all data or conditions that the consumer must know about before acquiring the product or service they offer.”
The agency memo issued by DACO highlights that any advertisement that communicates or tends to communicate a false, confusing or incorrect idea about the advertised good or service is considered misleading, or that omits relevant data on the product, good or service, limiting or depriving the consumer to make informed and conscious decisions.
“It is incorrect that because of COVID-19, businesses are not obliged to give vouchers or rain checks,” the DACO chief said. “Our rules remain the same, and the merchant must offer that alternative if it does not limit the offer made in some way. If he or she made the warning corresponding to a certain amount or time, the obligation does not apply, but it is not as a consequence of the pandemic, but because he or she made the warning according to the regulations.”
Rivera Rodríguez added that “in the context of the pandemic, among the most frequent deceptive practices that we have identified during recent months at DACO are hiding relevant data, advertising goods that are not available, and advertising products as bait, to attract the consumer and try to sell another good or service.”
Any consumer who believes that a business has engaged in a misleading practice or advertisement, can send their information in confidence through the page www.daco.pr.gov.
He or she can also do it through the mailbox on the DACO A TU FAVOR page on Facebook. If consumers are interested in the business providing them with a remedy, they must file a complaint, which can be done in person at any of the DACO regional offices, or through its website.