As the Christmas season approaches there will be a big increase in shopping as we rush around purchasing presents and household goods. Unfortunately, things can go wrong after buying something and you may want to make a complaint to the seller. Having a good understanding of your rights under consumer law before you complain, will help the process go more smoothly. Here are some common queries which consumers may have:
Q. What are my consumer rights?
Irish and EU consumer laws only apply to transactions between a consumer (a person who buys a good or service for personal use or consumption) and a trader (a person acting for purposes related to their trade, business or profession).
It does not apply when:
• You buy from a private individual who is not a trader (for example, someone who is selling their own car to you but who does not sell cars as a profession)
• You buy goods or services intended for use in your business (business-to-business transactions)
• You buy from a trader based outside the EU or European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein)
When you buy products, they must be:
• Of merchantable quality: that is of reasonable and acceptable standard, taking into account other factors such as durability and price.
• Fit for the purpose you bought it for: they should work and do what they are reasonably expected to do.
• As described: they should match any description given in an advert or other information provided by the seller at the time of sale.
• If the products you receive are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or do not match the description you were given, you have a right to redress.
Q. What is my ‘right to redress’ if I purchase a faulty product?
If you have a problem with something you have bought (for example, it is faulty or does not meet the description given), it is always the seller who must put things right. As a general rule, the seller must offer a repair or replacement. Alternatively, they can give you a refund.
Q. What should I do if I am not satisfied with the quality of a product or service?
If you feel that a product is faulty or you are not happy with a service you should:
• Return the item to the seller (not the manufacturer)
• Act as soon as you can – a delay can indicate that you have accepted faulty products
• Don’t attempt to repair the item yourself or give it to anyone else to repair it
• Make sure you have proof of purchase, for example a receipt or credit card statement
• For services, keep all evidence of damage caused by poor work, for example take photos.
Q. Are there some situations where I cannot avail of a refund, repair or replacement?
You may have no grounds for redress if:
• You were informed about the defect before you bought the item - for example, the goods were marked ‘shop-soiled’ or the car dealer told you a part needed replacing on a second-hand vehicle
• The damage is caused by your own misuse or negligence – if the fault appears six months after it was received, you may have to prove that it was not caused by you
• You made a mistake when buying the item – for example, buying a black dress instead of navy or entering the wrong dates for a flight
• The fault is superficial and you examined the item before you bought it and should have seen the defect
Q. If I buy something in a shop but change my mind about it later, can I return the item to the shop and get a refund?
You are not automatically entitled to a refund when returning an item you bought in a shop because you have simply changed your mind. If there is nothing wrong with the item (for example, there isn’t a fault) then you have no legal right to return the goods. Whether or not you can get your money back will depend on the seller’s returns policy.
However, most sellers voluntarily allow customers to return or replace goods during a certain time period. The seller may offer a refund, exchange or credit note as a goodwill gesture. For this reason, you should check what the seller’s returns policy is before you buy.
If the seller accepts returns then there is usually an obligation that:
• You make sure the items are in good condition
• The original labels and tags are attached
• You can provide proof of purchase (for example, a receipt)
Q. Is it different if I purchase a product on-line?
The Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU (CRD), gives you extra rights when you buy on line from sellers based in Ireland and other EU countries. Under the CRD, you have 14 calendar days to change your mind without having to give a reason. This right to cancel is also known as the ‘cooling-off period’. These rights do not apply to deals where you buy from a private individual or if you buy from a trader based outside the EU.
For further information call a member of the local Citizens Information Service in West Cork on 0818 07 8390. They will be happy to assist you and if necessary arrange an appointment for you. The offices are staffed from 10am-5pm from Monday to Thursday and on Friday from 10am-4pm. Alternatively you can email [email protected] or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie