Personal Finance

Action Line: If your back-to-school shopping list includes a laptop, start here

First step in outfitting your child for school: Find out what they’ll need to have.
First step in outfitting your child for school: Find out what they’ll need to have. New York Times

A reader: Summer is almost over. I am starting to get from school about my children’s classes and what they will need in the way of supplies. The big purchase this year is a laptop. What do I need to know to make sure that I am getting the right product at the best price?

Action Line: First of all, if the laptop is for school, make sure you have the information from the school on what the system requirements are. Your student’s school may have a program in place where they offer laptop purchases. Many times, they include tech support and insurance as well. Check it out along with other options to make sure you are getting the right product for your student. The insurance is a good idea if you think the laptop might get stepped on and damaged at soccer or football practice, for instance.

Once you find out exactly what you need to buy, make sure you check out the company you want to purchase from. Check with us at Confirm a physical location and get a phone number. If you are shopping online and get a popup asking for financial information, do not reply. Legitimate companies do not ask for information in that manner.

Make sure you know what you are buying . Read the description of the product. Watch out for name-brand products with really low prices. It could be counterfeit. Also, make sure you know if the product is new or refurbished.

There are lots of websites out there that do the comparison shopping for you. Again, make sure you check out the company before you trust their comparison. If you order online, check to see if there are shipping or handling charges. Sometimes, you can have it delivered to a local store and that will eliminate those charges.

Find out what the refund and exchange policy before you submit your order. Don’t forget to ask about delivery time.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, If you are paying by credit card online, your purchase is protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. In the event that someone uses your credit card without your permission, your liability generally is limited to the first $50 in charges. Some companies guarantee that you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made to your card online; some cards provide additional warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.

Get a receipt. Always save a copy of a record of any purchase, including the description of the product. Once the purchase is complete, watch your statement to make sure that there aren’t any charges you do not recognize.

If you do your homework before you make a purchase, chances are that you will not need to file a complaint. But if you do make a purchase and have a complaint, we always suggest that you contact the company first. If that does not resolve your issue, you can file with, or

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or