Be prepared for Christmas shopping spree with our consumer rights tips
So, you’ve only just survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and now you’re clinging on to receipts and order confirmations, or rabbit feet, hoping that what you’ve bought turns out to be what you hoped, or that it just turns up – before Christmas would be handy! Or, maybe you’ve yet to start the annual Christmas shopping survival of the fittest, preferring to live dangerously on the retail edge by leaving it to the last minute and pulling it out of the bag, like a pro?
Whatever you’re preferred way to run the Christmas shopping gauntlet is, one thing that should be on your endless ‘to-do’ list is to read up on your consumer rights just in case things go wrong.
A recent survey conducted by the ECC Ireland team found that more than half (57%) of participants were unsure about their rights when a purchased product turns out to be faulty. So, how clued up are you on your consumer rights? Would you know what to do if that Christmas present doesn’t arrive on time or it is not what you ordered? A tip – it doesn’t involve a stern email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To give you a helping hand (because we’re good like that), this month’s eBulletin will give your top ten Christmas consumer do and don’ts as well as a warning about dodgy pop-up ads to watch out for. Remember that survey we mentioned? Well, we’ll also give you a breakdown of the results from that, so read on.
To find out more read on below or download your free copy of ECC Ireland’s November 2016 eBulletin How to Complain?
Know your EU consumer rights – what to do if things go wrong?
We at ECC Ireland understand how easy it is to get carried away when chasing bargains. It’s very hard to ignore what looks a like a great offer and that hypnotic sale sign – “Buy me, buy me, buy me or you’ll regret it!” goes the chant.
Don’t let that spell take control. Put down the rabbit foot, uncross those fingers behind your back because the EU force is with you. You can help guard against the curse of consumer related problems by taking steps to learn about your EU consumer rights, do thorough research, and most important of all step back, think a little, before handing over your hard-earned cash or eagerly pressing that purchase button.
Your Christmas consumer rights top tips:
Tip 1: Suffering Black Friday/Cyber Monday regret? There is a 14 day ‘cooling off’ period for online shopping
We’ve all got carried away when a good sale is on, so if you’re suffering from Black Friday/Cyber Monday regret fear not. Under EU rules, when you’re shopping online you have 14 calendar days (starting from the day you receive the item) to cancel the contract and return the purchases to the seller without having to give a reason. However, you may have to pay for the cost of returning the goods. Also, it’s important to note that there are some exceptions which include: hotel accommodation; car rental; travel tickets; leisure services which have a specific date (e.g. concert ticket), or digital content that has been downloaded with the consumer’s express consent. More information about the ‘cooling-off’ period exceptions can be found on ECC Ireland’s website here.
Tip 2: Check the returns policy in case your Christmas gift fails to impress
Not all Christmas presents are received as well as you expected – it may be too big, too small, or just plain daft. So, it’s very important to read the terms and conditions when shopping online to check what the returns policy is, or if you’re shopping in person, well just ask a staff member. Remember, the gift receiver will need a bit of time after December 25th to be able to return or exchange an item. Returns policies are really up to the trader (as long as they don’t prejudice consumers’ statutory rights) and may differ from store to store so double check.
Tip 3: You should get what you paid for
One of the main concerns that consumers have when shopping online is that what they pay for and what they actually receive is two different things. This is of particular concern when it’s a Christmas gift. However, there is EU legislation to back you up here. Under the Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC consumer goods should be ‘in conformity with the contract of sale’.
The goods should: Comply with the description given by the seller, be fit for purpose, and show the quality and performance which are normal in goods of the same type and which you can reasonably expect. If this is not the case, you have the same legal rights as if you had bought the goods in person in store. Under EU rules, any fault that becomes apparent within the first six months of the goods being delivered are presumed to have existed at the time of delivery. The trader may first offer you a repair or replacement, but if this is not possible or turns out to be unsatisfactory, you may then seek to cancel the contract and ask for a full refund. In the EU, traders remain liable for any faults that become apparent within at least two years of purchase – however, if a fault develops after the initial six months has passed, then you may be asked to prove that the fault was not caused by misuse.
Tip 4: You’ve rights if goods ordered are a no show or delivered late
Santa isn’t the only person working to a particular deadline. You’ve got a long gift list to get through and the last thing you need is the headache and worry of something you ordered online being delivered late or doesn’t show up at all – a real Nightmare Before Christmas. Make sure you double check what the delivery time will be and even ask the trader. Your purchase should be delivered within 30 days unless you otherwise agree with the seller. If the item is not delivered within the period of time agreed, you may contact the trader and ask that the goods are delivered at a later convenient date. If the trader again fails to deliver then you can seek to cancel the contract. Remember, if you clearly stated to the trader that you needed the goods by a specific date you can cancel the contract after the agreed delivery period has expired.
Tip 5: Make sure that toy is safe
There’s nothing like seeing a child’s face full of happiness when they get their favourite toy for Christmas. It can be very hard to track the toys down and during the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping it is easy to forget to do certain checks. However, it is vitally important to make sure that toy you bought for your little one is safe. Always buy from trustworthy retailers and do your research. Inspect the toys to ensure they carry the CE mark and clear indications as to any possible hazards – this is a requirement under EU law. Never purchase a toy that doesn’t have the CE mark affixed on the body or packaging and read instructions and safety guidelines carefully. Choose toys that are suitable for the child’s age, abilities, and skill and be particularly wary of toys with detachable parts which are not suitable for children under three as they pose a choking hazard. Report any safety concerns to the retailer where the toy was purchased. If the toy was purchased in Ireland, consumers may also report the matter to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Here’s a video that the European Commission produced back in 2012 for its toy safety campaign. It may be slightly weird at times but it gets the message across and has a catchy beat that is annoyingly hard to forget. You’re welcome!
Tip 6: Be careful when making purchases from devices
We live in a busy world and so many of us use our mobiles increasingly to carry out tasks including consumer transactions. It’s so easy to see something you like on your mobile and click straight away without any prior research or fall victim to fraud. If you really want that new dress or latest gadget, then wait until you get home and have access to your desktop computer, laptop, or tablet, so that you can do the proper checks to know who you’re buying from, read the terms and conditions, and make informed purchase decisions. We also strongly advise not to access sensitive information (such as banking details) on a public WiFi network as these tend to be riskier and don’t click on links or attachments in unsolicited texts or emails as these may contain malware or phishing threats.
Tip 7: Don’t take risks – Do your research and pay securely
When shopping online it is always best practice to do your research to know who you are buying from. Under EU legislation, traders are obliged to provide full contact details including postal address, which consumers are encouraged to verify through further internet searches. If the trader just has a ‘contact us’ form then this should set alarm bells ringing. Look for reviews, do a ‘whois lookup’ search on a search engine to find out where the trader was registered and how long it is has been operating for. When paying make sure the site URL begins with ‘https://’, check on the security credentials to ensure it is in date, and use a secure method of payment such as a credit card or through a service such as PayPal.
ECC Ireland survey finds 57% of consumers are unsure about their consumer rights when goods are faulty
A recent survey carried out by the ECC Ireland team has found that 57% of respondents were unsure of their consumer rights when a purchased good turns out to be faulty.
The survey was conducted at the National Ploughing Championships which took place at Screggan, Tullamore, in Co. Offaly, from Septebember 20th to 22nd.
Out of a total of 528 surveyed by us at the European Union stand, 301 or 57.01% of participants wrongly believed that when a product develops a fault two months after purchase they should be given a full refund straight away without first giving the trader a chance to rectify the situation by offering a repair or replacement. A total of 227 (42.99%) correctly answered that it is only when no repair or replacement is offered within a reasonable time, or without causing significant inconvenience, that a consumer may seek a reduction in price or a full refund (see figure 2).
The survey showed that while consumers know that they may be entitled to a refund in the case of faulty goods they are unaware at what stage in the process they might be able to avail of that right.
It’s not all bad news, as those surveyed showed better knowledge when asked if traders are obligated to give their full contact details on their website, including geographical address. Of the 528 surveyed, 351 or 66.48% answered correctly agreeing that consumers have the right to clear information when shopping online including full contact details. A total of 177 or 33.52% wrongly believed that traders do not have to give full contact details like a postal address and that just a ‘contact us’ form was sufficient (see figure 1).
However, it is clear from helping consumers on a daily basis that more awareness is needed about EU consumer rights and shopping safely online. With events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the Christmas shopping rush, comes the temptation to buy first and think later but ECC Ireland would urge consumers to learn more about their consumer rights in case things go wrong, do thorough research about not just the product or service but also the trader, use a secure payment method, and read the small print.
Beware of social media pop-up ads
ECC Ireland has received a number of complaints recently in relation to pop-up ads on social media sites. We all find pop-up ads annoying but when they actually result in consumers being unwittingly conned into entering a contract for online goods then it is very worrying and we would urge you to watch out for this.
The modus operandi is for the ad to pop up on a consumer’s social media account and show off the products. Then the consumer is asked to enter an email and postal address. The trader then sends an email to the consumer saying that the goods have been dispatched and demanding for money to be paid. This is despite the fact that no actual contract has been entered into. Under EU rules, the trader is obliged to make it very clear that a contract is being entered into, for example the provision of a ‘purchase now’ button.
We would like consumers to beware of such ads and to thoroughly research the trader before passing on your personal information online.
Press and Communications Officer
The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.
© 2016 – European Consumer Centre (Ireland) Ltd, MACRO Centre, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7. Company limited by guarantee in Ireland, No. 367035 – Registered Charity No. 20048617 – CHY14708.
This ebulletin is part of the action 670695 – ECC-Net IE FPA which has received funding under a grant for an ECC action from the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).
The content of this ebulletin represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.