Layaway has become increasingly popular with the challenging economic times. However, putting an item on layaway may result in a loss of money or the item if you don’t read the contract carefully.
The BBB has received hundreds of complaints in the last year from consumers whose layaway purchase did not turn out the way they anticipated.
Consumers mainly place furniture, toys and jewelry on layaway and do so at a variety of stores, including national chain stores, local retail stores and pawn shops.
Some consumers paid money to a store only to have that company go out of business. While consumers will most likely not know if a company is going to go out of business, they should take care to only do business with reliable companies or make payments with a credit card, which comes with protections (charges can be disputed if the product is not delivered).
Based on the complaints we have received, the BBB suggests consumers should consider the following:
Ask the company for a written contract for the layaway and read it carefully. Keep in mind that each company may have a different layaway policy. Check for:
- How long the item can be on layaway?
Complaints allege consumers were not told that items could be placed on hold only a specific number of months, and then they would be returned to be sold to another consumer.
- Will the item be placed in a hold area until all payments are made?
Some consumers were informed that the product they were paying on had been sold to another consumer.
- Is there a specific date when each payment must be made?
The contract may specify when payments must be made and that, if a payment is not made by that date, the layaway item can be sold to another consumer.
- What is the company's refund policy? Is there a restocking fee? Will only a store credit be issued? Are no refunds available?
Consumers report not being able to obtain a refund or a store credit if they change their mind about buying the item put on layaway. In addition, complaints state that restocking fees of 10% or more are often charged.
- When putting on layaway a product that is not in stock, is the product ordered when the layaway is opened or when the last payment is made?
Consumers report that even after the last payment is made the product is not available, as it is then ordered and sometimes is delayed for weeks or months.
- Delivery timeframe should be determined up front.
Consumers report that after the last payment, delivery has been delayed due to the product not being available or other consumers having their delivery dates scheduled before layaway customers.
- Is there a fee to use the layaway program? If so, how much is the fee and is it refundable?
If you are a business and are wondering if your layaway plan is providing the correct information the BBB and the FTC provide the following information: http://www.bbb.org/us/article/ftc--offering-layaways-4431