Christmas Shopping Consumer Rights: Expectations vs Reality

Consumer rights can sometimes be tricky so it’s easy for shoppers to get a little muddled about what their rights are and what they are entitled to. Add in the pressure of Christmas shopping and the disappointment of a present not being as expected then there’s even more confusion and sometimes upset. Here we try to clear up some of the most common misconceptions consumers often have.



‘If I buy something in a shop and then, later on, I simply change my mind that’s okay because I’m automatically entitled to a refund anyway?’

If only it were that simple. Unfortunately when you buy something from a bricks and mortar shop you are not automatically entitled to a refund because it’s really up to the trader’s returns policy, as long as it does not adversely affect your statutory rights (e.g. your right to a repair/replacement or refund when a good is faulty). However, most traders do offer some sort of exchange or refund as a sort of goodwill gesture. This is why it’s so important for Christmas shoppers to ask what the trader’s returns policy is and if they do offer an exchange or refund check the timeframe, in particular, if there is an extension beyond Christmas week (in case your loved one really doesn’t like those snazzy socks). Don’t forget to keep those receipts!


‘It’s more of a risk shopping online because you’ve fewer rights than when you buy from a shop on the high street.’

You’ve actually got the same rights when buying online from EU-based traders. In fact, they’re slightly stronger because of the 14-day cooling-off period which allows you to change your mind without giving a reason, return the item (in good nick) and get a refund of all sums paid (including the initial delivery charge). However, you may have to pay for the cost of returning the item back to the trader so check the terms and conditions to see if this will be covered or not as it can be expensive to return heavy or bulky items. Of course, you should always do your research and pay securely (with a credit/debit card or Paypal) when shopping online, just in case.

Check out our shopping online page for more information.


‘When I buy something in a sale, I don’t have the same rights.’

Wrong again. You have the same rights as regards faulty goods shopping in the sales as you do at any other time of the year. Sale items should still be of merchantable quality, be fit for purpose, and be as described. If it is faulty, you are entitled to a repair/replacement, or if appropriate, a refund of the amount paid just as you would with a full-priced item. This applies to shop-bought and online items. However, brick-and-mortar stores which operate a voluntary returns policy, may draw a distinction between full-price and sales goods.


‘If there is a fault with my purchase I can demand a refund straight away no questions asked.’

Wow, hold your horses! Unfortunately, there are a few steps that you and the trader have to take before you get to the refund stage. Where there is a lack of conformity (e.g. the good does not comply with the description given, it’s not fit for purpose, and/or it doesn’t show the quality and performance that one would reasonably expect) then a consumer may first ask the seller to first provide a repair or replacement free of charge. If that’s not possible, is disproportionate, or cannot be done within a reasonable time or without significant inconvenience to the consumer, it is at this stage that a consumer can request a full refund of all sums paid. It’s not necessarily a question-free process; If the lack of conformity becomes apparent within six months of delivery, it is presumed to have existed at the time of delivery and, accordingly the trader will be required to prove otherwise or provide remedies. However, if the fault arose very soon after purchase, and Irish or UK law applies, you may be entitled to reject the goods and get a full refund in the first instance.

Check out our buying goods and services page for more information.


‘The terms and conditions are a load of rubbish. There’s no need to spend time reading it at all.’

Okay, so reading terms and conditions isn’t on peoples’ list of top things to do when in the midst of the Christmas shopping frenzy and yes, often they do look like a load of gobbledygook. To protect yourself and know who you are entering a contract with, then you have an obligation to yourself to read it. You don’t have to read it all; Just look out for the main points – who the trader is and where the company is based, what is the returns/cancellation policy and how do you do it, whether will you have to pay for a return, etc. So many consumers are guilty of ticking the ‘I’ve read the terms and conditions’ box when they haven’t. Remember, by giving your explicit consent (e.g. pressing the purchase button and paying) then you’ve essentially agreed to the terms, so not only do traders have to hold up their end of the bargain, but so do you. It is a contract after all, so get comfortable and just read it.


‘There’s no need to tell couriers or proxy address companies the value of my purchases. If they lose or break it they’ll just have to pay for all of it.’

That really depends on how much you value your lovely shiny new Christmas gifts. If you’re worried that a valuable, fragile, or even sentimental item will get lost or damaged during delivery then it would certainly be worthwhile checking the terms and conditions (yes, that again) when engaging the services of such companies as some place a cap on the amount that they are liable for. So, if your €300 purchase goes AWOL and you might only get €100 back then it might be worth looking into paying for extra cover.


‘The courier delivered my purchase but it was only later on, when I opened the box, that I realised it was faulty. Sure, I’ve signed for it now so there’s nothing I can do.’

Don’t give up yet. Yeah, so you signed for it. So what? It doesn’t mean that you’ve signed away your rights, the item is still faulty! It’s always recommended to check the goods as soon as you can and if you find a fault or you got a pink tutu instead of those really cool runners that everyone is going to be jealous about (or at least they would have), then you need to contact the trader, in writing, straight away outlining your problem and stating that you wish to avail of your rights. Don’t forget that not only do you have rights when the goods are not in conformity, but when you buy online (for some purchases) you also have the 14-day cooling off period, which kicks in from the date you receive the goods. Or you can just keep the pink tutu and totally rock it! No judgment here.


Extra tip: There’s also a little thing called the passing of risk which comes into play when there’s a question over who is liable (the trader or the courier) for the damage or loss of your lovely delivery. It all depends on if the courier was organised by the trader or whether you organised delivery yourself through a courier/delivery service?