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Keep ho-ho-ho-ing all the way to Christmas with these online shopping tips 

You’ve got a million and one presents to get (some of them for yourself – let’s be honest) so there’s no time to waste as the countdown to Christmas Day has begun. With no real idea (again, the honesty) you go online in the hopes of inspiration because there’s no way you’re just going to get boring socks or the ‘I couldn’t think of anything else’ voucher. And then you see it, the perfect present gleaming brightly on the screen and telling you to buy, buy, buy. You do the deed, smugly put your credit card away, and just wait. But then, disaster strikes; that brilliant present is not delivered on time, or there’s no sign of it, and turns out that it has been lost.

This is a scenario that unfortunately does happen to some consumers. For others, the product might arrive but it’s faulty or not as described. So, what are your rights and what can you do to rectify the situation.

Late or failed delivery

When it comes to late delivery of a product you have rights under the Consumer Rights Directive but, if you think you can avail of a full refund straight away, think again, because there are a few steps to take before that kicks in.

Here are a few scenarios to help you figure out what you’re entitled to and at what stage.

You’ve ordered a product from an online trader with no specific date of delivery agreed with the seller.

In this situation, the product should be delivered within 30 days unless you have agreed on a shorter timeframe before you entered into the contract. If it doesn’t arrive within this initial 30 days then, at this stage, you are entitled to contact the trader and ask that the product is delivered at a later date that is convenient to you.

The trader fails to deliver the product on the second agreed date.

So you’ve waited the initial 30 days, contacted the trader but the product has still not arrived within the additional timeframe agreed. At this point, you are entitled to cancel the contract and request a full refund of any and all sums paid. To be clear, this means that the trader should pay back the total price you paid for the product plus additional costs such as postage and packaging.

You needed the product for a specific reason and it was essential that it arrived on time.

If you had told the trader that you needed the good for a particular date and that is was essential (for example, a wedding dress or a present by Christmas Day) and the trader agreed to this, then your rights are different. You may cancel the contract and request a refund after the initial 30-day period has expired or by the agreed date without having to arrange additional time for delivery.

If the trader has stated that delivery is not possible

If the trader has clearly stated that delivery of the product is impossible or will not deliver, then you are entitled to cancel the contract immediately and request a refund.

 

Lost or damaged in transit

Unfortunately, there are times when the product can get damaged or lost in transit. Let’s face it, all that gigging about in the back of a lorry, or maybe poor packing, can from time-to-time lead to some Christmas present fatalities or it goes AWOL. If this happens to one of your orders then you’ll need to know what your rights are, so read on.

Article 20 of Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights and the passing of risk:

One of the first things to establish is where the responsibility for items damaged or lost lies. Is it with the consumer or the trader?

To help you understand this, we must first look at Article 20 of Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights which states: ‘In contracts where the trader dispatches the goods to the consumer, the risk of loss of or damage to the goods shall pass to the consumer when he or a third party indicated by the consumer and other than the carrier has acquired the physical possession of the goods. However, the risk shall pass to the consumer upon delivery to the carrier if the carrier was commissioned by the consumer to carry the goods and that choice was not offered by the trader, without prejudice to the rights of the consumer against the carrier.’

This means that the trader is responsible for the goods until it is given to, and in the possession of, the consumer. If the trader has offered a particular courier service, and this has not been organised by the consumer, then the trader still has responsibility while the goods are in the possession of this courier. However, if the consumer organises his/her own courier/delivery service or nominates 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.

Another scenario could also be if a consumer uses a home delivery or proxy address service, for example Parcel Motel or An Post’s AddressPal, then the trader’s liability would end once the goods are passed over to these services. When using third party courier/delivery services it is always advisable to check the terms and conditions.

If an issue does arise while the goods are in transit and a third party delivery/address service has been used by the consumer then the issue of where responsibility lies would depend on when the issue occurred – was it while in possession of the trader or the courier service it provided or did it take place while in possession of the third party service arranged by the consumer? To help determine this, the trader should be called upon to provide proof that the product was delivered to the third-party/consumer and without damage (if applicable), and if trader fails to do so, the consumer may request that the contract is cancelled and a refund is provided.

If it is proven that the issue was caused while in the possession of the third-party service with which you have a separate contract (to deliver the goods safely to you) then you will then need to refer the matter to this trader.

 

Faulty products 

We all do it – the delivery person arrives and we just straight away sign for the goods without giving it the once over. ‘But sure, it’s a box, how can you know if the goods are faulty or not!’, I hear you exclaim. Don’t panic, if you or a person nominated by you (like a neighbour) signs for the goods to accept the delivery this doesn’t mean that you’ve signed away your statutory rights.

Check the goods as quickly as you can and if there are any issues you should contact the trader, in writing (like an email) if possible, as soon as you can fully outlining the problem and stating that you wish to avail of your applicable rights.

If an item bought online turns out to be faulty or not as advertised, you have the same legal rights as if you bought it in person in store. Click here for more information about your rights when goods are ‘not in conformity’ with the contract.

When the fault occurs is also very important. If the fault becomes apparent within the first six months, then it is considered to have been there at the time of delivery. So, in the situation where you’ve signed for a product and open up the package to find that it is broken or faulty then you have rights under EU legislation. Click here to find out more.

Please note: You may have to pay for the faulty product to be returned to the trader. However, if it is proven that there is a fault, and it was not caused by you, then the trader should reimburse this extra cost to you.

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