It’s that time of year again when Christmas is fast approaching and shoppers are out in force. Most purchases of goods and services go smoothly, but what happens when things go wrong.
Rest assured that when you buy a product or a service you have a number of rights under Irish and European Union (EU) legislation. These laws aim to give you strong rights when you buy in a shop or online, make sure you get enough information to make a buying decision based on facts and make sure there are redress options available to you if things go wrong. By law, sellers or suppliers (known as ‘traders’) must treat you fairly, for example, by making sure products and services are safe and of a high standard.
When you buy goods and services, you are making a contract with the seller. As parties to the agreement, both you and the seller have certain legal rights and obligations. Contracts can be made verbally, in writing, or by your conduct. There are certain parts of a contract that businesses are free to set. However, these terms must not go against your consumer rights.
Irish and EU consumer laws only apply to transactions between a consumer and a trader. 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)
Sale of goods and supply of Services Act 1980. When you buy products, they must be ‘in conformity with the contract’. This means they must be:
- Of merchantable quality – this means 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 certain remedies. A remedy could be a repair, replacement or a refund. Contracts for the supply of services are currently subject to much less statutory regulation than contracts for the sale of products. When you make an agreement with a supplier of services, for example, a carpenter, a plumber or a dentist, the agreement may be written or oral or a bit of both. In general, the terms of the agreement are what you agree with the supplier or trader.
Online shopping rights
When you buy online from an online trader in Ireland, or elsewhere in the EU, you have strong rights under the EU Consumer Rights Directive (CRD). These include:
- The right to clear and accurate information
- The right to change your mind and cancel (some purchases are not included)
- The express right to refund for delayed or non-delivery
- Right to redress in case of faulty goods.
What is my ‘right to redress’ if things go wrong?
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.
If you are not satisfied with the quality of the products or services 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.
The success of your consumer complaint can depend on a combination of factors – consumer legislation, the trader’s willingness to resolve the issue, and the circumstances of the case itself. If you have a question in relation to your consumer rights, please contact South Munster Citizens Information Service where a highly trained member of staff will be happy to provide you accurate and up-to-date information in an understandable and usable way so that you can make an informed decision.
For anyone needing information, advice or who has an advocacy issue, you can call a member of the local Citizens Information team in Cork City North weekdays from 10am to 4.30pm on 0761 07 6850, they will be happy to assist. Alternatively you can email on email@example.com or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie for further information.