What happens if you changed your mind about something you bought online?
It’s fine to change your mind when you purchased something, as long as traders respect their obligations and the consumer plays fair. If you buy goods in a shop, you have no EU legal right to return the goods (for exchange or refund) unless the item is faulty. However, many shops voluntarily allow customers to return or exchange goods during a certain time period, provided you have the receipt. You have considerably more rights and redress options if you buy online.
14 days to change your mind
In the EU you have the right to return purchases made online or through other types of distance selling, such as by phone, mail order or from a door-to-door salesperson, within 14 days for a full refund. You can do so for any reason – even if you simply changed your mind.
The standard online purchase transaction contract comes with a “cooling off” clause. The trader is obliged to inform you about and afford you the right to withdraw from a distance-sale (including online sale) contract.
The cooling off period expires 14 days after the day you received your goods. For service contracts, the cooling off period expires 14 days after the day you concluded the contract. If the cooling off period expires on a non-working day, your deadline is extended till the next working day.
The 14-day cooling off period does not apply to:
- plane and train tickets, as well as concert tickets, hotel bookings, car rental reservations and catering services for specific dates
- goods and drinks delivered to you by regular delivery – for example delivery by a milkman
- goods made to order or clearly personalised – such as a tailor-made suit
- sealed audio, video or computer software, such as DVDs, which you have unsealed upon receipt
- online digital content, if you have already started downloading or streaming it and you agreed that you would lose your right of withdrawal by starting the performance
- goods bought from a private individual rather than a company/trader
- urgent repairs and maintenance contracts – if you call a plumber to repair a leaking shower, you can’t cancel the work once you have agreed on the price of the service
Jane bought a ticket online for a U2 concert in Ireland. She found out the following day that she would have to be out of the country on the concert date, and tried to cancel her ticket. However, the online trader refused to cancel the order and give her a refund, as the 14 day cooling off period doesn’t apply to concert ticket purchases.
How to cancel and return an order
You must tell the trader that you want to cancel your purchase. It is not enough just to send the goods back. You can inform the trader and send back your goods at the same time, for example, by adding a written statement with the goods that you are returning by post, by sending an e-mail, or by completing an online returns form on the trader’s website.
You must send the goods back within 14 days of informing the trader.
Some traders may not charge you for returning your goods. However, they should tell you in advance (before you order) if you will have to pay if you decide to return your order. If they don’t tell you that you must pay for your return, the trader will have to pay for it. You don’t have to pay any other charges that you were not informed of.
For bulky goods (such as large household appliances or furniture), the trader must give you at least an estimate of the cost of returning your order. Bulky goods bought off-premises, such as by catalogue or from a door-to-door salesperson, and delivered to you immediately must always, however, be collected by the trader at their own expense.
Getting a refund
The trader must give you a refund within 14 days of receiving your cancellation request. However, they can delay refunding you if they haven’t received the goods or evidence that you’ve returned them.
Your refund must include any shipping charges you paid when you made your purchase. However, the trader may charge you delivery costs if you specifically requested non-standard delivery (such as express delivery).
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