The commerce ministry is increasing inspections in stores ahead of upcoming January sales, calling on consumers to be mindful of misleading advertising.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on Tuesday, trade officer Savvas Savva said there is no longer a statutory sales period, though most shops offer discounts for their winter collection in January.

Consequently, consumers should make themselves aware of store policies on returns and exchanges.

Options include money returns, exchanges or even not allowing any returns, Savva said.

Where discounts are concerned, price tags should have the original price and the new price or the amount of the discount, he explained.

Advising on measures consumers take when finding misleading claims, such as observing a price which is advertised as reduced but is in fact unchanged, then people have a right to report this.

“If a shop window advertises discounts up to 60 per cent, and consumers realise this only concerns very few items with broken sizes, this is still a misleading claim.”

Complaints can be made to the consumers line on 1429 and can be done anonymously too if required, either on the phone or online.

Online shopping allows for stronger inspection with legislation favouring consumers more, Savva noted.

It allows consumers to have their money returned, with this applying to all online retailers. This is in contrast to physical stores where they can set their own policies.

Online shopping rules are the same in all EU countries and also apply to the UK.

Consumers should also be mindful from where they shop from, as the majority of complaints concern sales made through social media. If a website cannot be found, then it is difficult for the ministry to intervene, Savva noted.

He also cautioned against websites that appear to sell brands at very cheap prices, and websites that do not have any contact numbers.

The ministry will launch a campaign next week, aiming to better inform consumers.