Know your rights as a consumer ahead of Christmas

South Munster Citizens Information has provided a Know your Rights piece with information and advice around Consumer Protection.
Know your rights as a consumer ahead of Christmas

WARNING: Irish and EU consumer laws only apply to transactions between a consumer and a trader

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.

The following 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).

They do 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 online 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.

Our telephone lines at South Munster Citizens Information Centres (CIC) in Cork city are monitored from 10am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. In addition, the Cork City Centre CIC in Cornmarket Street is open to the public from 10am to 12.30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the Blackpool CIC is open to the public each morning from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Full details for all Citizens Information Centres and their opening times are available on our website.

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