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ECC Ireland saw a 75% increase in complaints about disreputable electronics sellers in 2014 and 2015. A majority of complaints related to traders based in the Canary Islands. As this is a popular holiday destination for Irish holidaymakers, it is important to be mindful of such traders. Many cases reported to our office involved instances of aggressive or misleading selling practices, such as consumers being misled into paying inflated prices for goods worth only a fraction of the amount paid. Other consumers reported being brought to “demos” at which multiple traders attempted to convince them to buy expensive products or supplementary items. Consumers should be cautious when looking to buy electronic items (such as laptops, cameras, or tablets) while on holiday. It is advisable to bring a companion when browsing and to take time to think about any offers and do some independent research.

January is traditionally a popular time for sun holidays, as many holidaymakers look to avoid grey skies and cold weather by escaping to warmer climates. Spain is particularly popular with Irish holidaymakers; however, some holidaymakers in the Canary Islands have experienced problems when buying electronic items during their trips.

Consumers looking to buy items such as cameras or tablets have encountered aggressive or misleading selling techniques, with some traders suggesting the product will not function to its highest standard unless the consumer pays for costly supplementary items. Others have lured consumers with discounted offers on a certain product, only for the consumer to be talked into purchasing a different, allegedly superior product at a much higher price.

In some cases, consumers returned home to find that the items purchased were worth significantly less than what was paid. Others found they were charged more than the agreed price at the till or that the item’s performance began to deteriorate rapidly in the weeks after purchase.

In order to help avoid being caught out by such a scam, ECC Ireland advises consumers to exercise caution when buying on holiday and to be vigilant against aggressive selling practices. It is advisable to bring a friend or relative along when looking to buy electronic goods on holiday, particularly as rogue traders tend to target elderly and vulnerable consumers.

Consumers should take time to think about offers and, where possible, carry out some independent research. Remember that a reputable trader will allow you time to reflect and to consider your options.

If you decide to make a purchase, it is a good idea to use a secure method of payment such as a credit card as this may offer some additional redress in the event of a problem.


Case Studies

Two elderly Irish consumers were sold a non-brand name tablet computer during their holiday in the Canary Islands. The consumers were charged €700 for the tablet. The trader also invited them to attend a demo at which they would be shown how to make the best use of the tablet. The demo was held the day before the consumers were to return home. They were brought to a warehouse and given a lengthy presentation by a number of individuals, during which they were pressured into buying costly additional products. When the consumers returned home, they discovered their credit card had been charged €6,250 by the traders. They consumers were able to seek redress through their card company for this charge, but were unable to recoup the cost of the tablet.

ECC Ireland was contacted by an Irish consumer in relation to the purchase of a camera in Tenerife. The consumer paid approximately €484 for a camera which he was led to believe was a high-quality brand worth more than £750. On his return to Ireland however, he discovered that the camera was worth significantly less than the amount paid. The consumer sent a written complaint to the trader but did not receive a response. The case was shared with ECC Spain. The trader initially refused to engage with our services, but eventually offered a partial refund to the consumer.

An Irish consumer contacted ECC Ireland in relation to a purchase made by his mother on holiday. The consumer’s mother paid €1,607 for a tablet and a number of supplementary items. She later returned to the shop and asked for a refund, but was refused. On her return home, the consumer investigated and calculated that the value of the items was at most €300. He sent a written complaint to the trader and a refund was offered. However, the refund was never received. ECC Ireland sought assistance from our sister office in Spain but the trader refused to respond to their efforts.

An Irish consumer paid €425 for a camera in an electronics shop in Tenerife. On her return home, she found that the photographs taken by the camera were of very poor quality. She had the item inspected by an independent expert and was advised that it was worth significantly less than €425. The consumer sent a complaint to the trader but her letter was returned. She then contacted ECC Ireland for assistance and the matter is currently being investigated.

 

Consumer query of the month

While on holiday in Tenerife recently, I purchased a router at an agreed price of €50 from a local trader. However, when I returned home, I noticed that my credit card had been charged €2,989 for the transaction. Is there anything I can do to query this charge?

ECC Ireland has received a significant number of complaints about incidents like this, particularly in relation to traders in the Canary Islands. As the selling techniques employed by such traders may often be deemed misleading or aggressive, they may generally be considered an unfair commercial practice. These are prohibited by EU Directive 2005/29 on unfair commercial practices – however, the legislation does not provide for an automatic right of refund. In addition, the fact that much of the discussion between consumer and trader prior to the contract being formed was verbal means that it can be difficult to prove exactly what was agreed.

This information notwithstanding, we would first suggest that you make contact with your credit card provider and dispute the amount of the transaction. It may be possible for your bank to process a chargeback of all or part of the amount paid. If you have contact details or an address for the trader in question, you may also wish to consider contacting the local Municipal Consumer Information Office (Oficina Municipal/Insular de Informacion al Consumidor) in Tenerife. A list of local offices can be found here.

 

Success story of the month

A case was forwarded to ECC Ireland from our sister office in the Netherlands on behalf of a Dutch consumer who had recently travelled with an Irish airline. The consumer had travelled from Dublin to Amsterdam but, on arrival at his destination, his baggage did not arrive. He filled out a Property Irregularity Report at the airport and submitted this to the airline along with receipts for expenses incurred. His bag was later recovered but he did not receive a reply from the airline in response to his claim for reimbursement. Following the intervention of our office, the airline agreed to pay €104.95 to the consumer to compensate him for the expenses incurred during the time he was deprived of his belongings.

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