Sunday 19 September 2021

Retail Marketing and Consumer Protection Law in Costa Rica

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(QBLOG) As I mentioned in my previous blog regarding supermarket merchandising practices at major supermarket chains in Costa Rica, so goes the marketing practices of larger department stores.

There is a keen interest by these Costa Rica entities in mimicking the marketing practices of their U.S. and Canadian counterparts, especially when it comes to “riding on the coat-tails” of such successful marketing ventures in the U.S. and Canada, as “Black Friday”, or “Viernes Negro”, as it is called in Costa Rica.

In fact, larger department stores in Costa Rica are so enthusiastic about the “Black Friday” marketing caper, that they have accelerated the initial “Black Friday” offering to the first Friday in November, rather than the last Friday, following U.S. Thanksgiving, which is traditional in those other jurisdictions.

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The problems arise with the difference in the marketing practices found in Costa Rica, versus the U.S. and Canada surrounding such “blow-out” marketing events.

Although Consumer Protection Laws exist in Costa Rica, most predominantly with the Law known as, “Ley de Protección al Consumidor”, the real issue is the practical and meaningful application of the sanctions, for violation of its provisions.

A case in point occurred this Friday, “Black Friday” when my wife attended at a large Costa Rica department store, which has multiple outlets in the San Jose area, to specifically purchase a mirror that was published in the particular sore’s advertising for this date as being offered at a 50% discount from the regular price.

My wife was familiar with the particular mirror and price, from previous shopping visits to the store in question and new specifically the item that was offered and that which she wished to purchase. On arrival, she inspected the mirror item being offered and found that a more cheaply Chinese constructed “knock-off” mirror had been substituted for the one illustrated in the advertising.

The mirror being offered in the promotion at the store probably only has a full retail value equal to 50% of the value of the mirror intended to be purchased. When my wife questioned the Manager, she was told that the mirror depicted in the advertising was for illustrative purposes only and wasn’t being offered for sale at a 50% discount.

This practice, clearly contravenes the provisions of the Costa Rica Consumer Protection Law previously cited, Article 17 a) to be precise.

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Unlike the U.S., or Canada, to pursue a complaint under this legislation in Costa Rica, with any chance of a practical, or meaningful outcome, is next to impossible. The Administrative Agencies of the Government, and/or the Courts, charged with the administration of such Consumer Protection legislation, do not operate with any degree of effectiveness to in-fact carry-out the mandate for which they were created.

In general, there is a distinct lack of will power to enforce any such legislation in Costa Rica.

This leaves consumers without any degree of viable protection and with retail stores able to carry-out marketing practices subject to sanction with virtual impunity, such as in the circumstance described.

Consumer Protection Laws in Costa Rica have to be taken seriously in the marketing practices by retailers, with the real possibility of their facing the stated sanctions in the Legislation for violations.

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Richard Philps
Attorney Richard (Rick) Philps is a Canadian citizen, naturalized as a citizen of Costa Rica. Rick practiced law in Victoria, B.C., Canada as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia, for fourteen years, prior to moving to Costa Rica in 1998. Rick then earned his Bachelor of Laws and Licensing Degrees (Civil Law), with Honours, and a Post-Graduate Degree in Notary and Registry Law, from the Metropolitana Castro Carazo and Escuela Libre de Derecho Universities, in San Jose. Rick is a member of the Costa Rica College of Lawyers, and practices law in Costa Rica in the areas of real estate and development, corporate, commercial, contract, immigration, and banking. To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney; Email:, Website:

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