Consumer Rights: Facts vs Fiction
When you’re buying goods or services from the local shop on the high street or online from a trader based elsewhere in the European Union you can benefit from a number of consumer rights if things go wrong. Unfortunately, many consumers encounter difficulties when trying to avail of those rights. In some cases, consumers may be given inaccurate or confusing information about their redress entitlements from a trader after lodging a complaint.
Traders have certain obligations under national and EU consumer legislation. This includes ensuring consumers are provided with information about their rights, for example, by providing details about consumers’ cancellation rights. However, sometimes the wrong information is provided on a website or may be given by an individual member of staff who is perhaps not fully aware of consumers’ rights.
We’ve put together the top five untruths consumers have reported to us, and clarified what you’re actually entitled to:
1. ‘Your warranty is out of date so you’re not entitled to a repair or replacement’
Any guarantee/warranty provided by the seller/manufacturer is in addition to your statutory rights, not instead of them. So, just because a guarantee/warranty might have an expiration date (for example, 12 months) it doesn’t mean that as soon as that’s out of date you suddenly don’t have rights.
Under EU consumer legislation you are entitled to first request a repair or replacement when a good is not in conformity (i.e. faulty, not as described, not fit for purpose) with the contract. If that is not possible or cannot be completed without significant inconvenience for you, then you can ask for a refund. These remedies are enforceable against the seller for, at least, up to two years EU-wide and in Ireland the limitation period is six years. However, if a fault occurs after six months from delivery, the consumer will bear the burden of demonstrating that the product is inherently faulty.
Find our more about guarantee, warranty and faulty goods issues.
2. ‘The 14-day cooling off period starts from the day of purchase’
You have strong rights when buying online from a trader based in the EU, in particular, you have the right to change your mind (for most online purchases – exceptions apply) without having to give a reason. However, there seems to be some confusion out there in relation to when this right of withdrawal, otherwise known as the 14-day cooling off period, actually begins.
We’ve seen terms and conditions with incorrect information, and heard reports from consumers who have been turned away by a trader falsely claiming they exercised this right too late. If you’re told that you can only avail of this right 14 days from the day of purchase, this is not correct.
Under EU legislation, you have 14 days FROM THE DAY OF DELIVERY of the product (i.e. when you, or a person nominated by you, gains possession of the item) to inform the trader that you wish to withdraw from the contract. Then, you have 14 days to return the item to the trader and get a refund of all sums paid.
There is sometimes confusion over returns and delivery costs – while the trader should refund the original standard delivery cost (i.e. what you paid to receive the goods once you did not opt for expediated delivery at additional cost) there is no obligation to provide you with free returns when you simply change your mind. You should therefore check the terms and conditions to see if you will have to bear the cost of returning the item.
Find out more about shopping online.
3. ‘We don’t have to sell to you because you’re in Ireland’
The Services Directive explicitly prohibits discrimination based on the grounds of nationality or place of residence of service recipients unless justified by objective criteria. These consumers rights were further strengthened by the implementation of the Geoblocking Regulation, which gives all EU consumers equal rights to access a trader’s goods or services, under the same conditions, no matter where in the EU they are resident. This means that a trader cannot refuse to sell to you, or treat you differently to local customers, simply because you’re resident in Ireland.
However, the trader is not obliged to deliver the item to you – it may only deliver to certain Member States. In this situation, you are entitled to continue with the purchase and collect the item from the trader’s premises, where the trader offers this service to local customers, or have the item delivered to an address where the trader does offer delivery. The main point to remember is that you should be treated the same as a local customer.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has a handy geo-blocking guide.
4. ‘You must buy our excess insurance cover to rent the car’
Some consumers have not read the terms and conditions sufficiently, or even at all, before they arrive at the rental desk and so are unprepared and baffled when the car rental rep informs them that the vehicle cannot be taken unless their additional insurance is purchased. Although some car rental companies pressure consumers into buying extra insurance, it is important to remember that this is OPTIONAL and you cannot be compelled to purchase additional insurance once you comply with other terms and conditions of the rental.
The Collission Damage Waiver (CDW) excess is the amount that you remain liable for should something happen to the vehicle during the rental period. The optional insurance offered at the desk can reduce this, sometimes to as low as zero. This insurance is also available from third-party suppliers (for example, brokers), often at significantly lower cost than at the rental desk. Consumers frequently report that this insurance is not recognised by the car rental provider and they feel compelled to purchase further (duplicate) insurance which they do not require in order to rent the vehicle booked. While the car rental company is not obliged to recognise this third-party insurance product, you remain entitled to leave a desposit equal to the CDW excess and are not required to purchase any additional insurance at the rental desk should you not wish to do so. The deposit is generally in the form of an amount withheld on a credit card in the name of the lead driver so make sure you have the funds, and correct card, to cover this.
Remember, don’t let yourself be pressurised into buying additional insurance at the rental desk if you do not want or require it. Leave the required deposit and make sure to read over the rental agreement before signing to ensure that it doesn’t include additional insurance or other unauthorised extra charges.
For more car rental advice check out our car rental tips.
5. ‘We’re not responsible for losing your item. Talk to the courier’
There are a lot of benefits to shopping online but there are also a few negatives – one of the biggest being your item going missing during delivery. Sometimes consumers are confused about who to complain to as neither the trader nor the delivery company accepts responsibility. It can go back and forth with the consumer often left feeling fobbed off and at a loss as to how they can avail of their rights.
For this situation Article 20 of the Consumer Rights Directive provides helpful clarity. If the trader offered a particular courier/delivery service (as is generally the case in ecommerce contracts) and this was not organised by you, then it is the trader who has responsibility for the goods until they are physically in your possession. However, if you organised your own courier/delivery service, or nominated someone else to receive the goods (e.g. a neighbour) then the trader’s responsibility ends the moment the goods are passed over to this third-party.
Alternatively, if you use a home delivery or proxy address service, for example Parcel Motel, then the trader’s liability ends once the goods are passed on to these services. It is important to check the terms of conditions of these third-party services as there is often liability restrictions which may not be sufficient to cover valuable items.
Once you’ve figured out who is responsible then lodge your complaint (either with the trader or the third-party).