Avoid online debs Disasters


With more and more consumers turning to the internet in search of a bargain,this month we warn of the perils of buying formal dresses online. Our consumer query of the month deals with problems having a faulty kitchen appliance repaired, while our success story involves difficulties with a car rental booked online.

Everyone wants to have the perfect dress for that special occasion whether it’s a wedding, debutante ball or other black tie event. Unfortunately many consumers are falling victim to a growing number of suspect websites which either don’t deliver the dress at all or send dresses that bear little resemblance to what was ordered. These sites, which appear frequently in web searches and sponsored ads often look very professional and many feature a wide array of formal gowns at attractive prices. 

We regularly receive complaints from consumers who have bought formal dresses online from companies which delivered poor quality and badly made dresses that did not correspond with the pictures used on their websites. Unfortunately many of these websites are based in China or elsewhere outside the EU so it can be very difficult for consumers to obtain redress.

To avoid nasty surprises, it is very important to shop from reliable venders and to fully research unfamiliar websites, particularly where exactly they are located. Remember, when you are shopping from websites based within the EU, you have a “cooling-off period” of at least 7 working days within which you can return unsuitable dresses for a full refund.Buying from a trader located outside the EU will mean that you may not be protected by European consumer legislation and you may even have to pay additional customs and taxes.

We would advise consumers to be vigilant when shopping online on new websites. Check online review and wherever possible pay by credit card so you will have some recourse if something goes wrong.



Consumer Query of the Month


I bought a kitchen appliance online from a UK company. This item soon became faulty and the trader directed me to contact the manufacturer as it was still under guarantee. The manufacturer agreed to repair it but said I had to cover the postage costs, which are considerable, as these are not covered under the warranty. What are my rights in this situation?

If you purchase a faulty product you are protected by Directive 99/44/EC. Under this legislation the seller must deliver goods to the consumer which are in conformity with the contract of sale (i.e. of satisfactory quality). If they do not, the trader is obliged to bring the contract back into conformity by repairing or replacing the goods, free of charge, within a reasonable amount of time unless this is impossible or disproportionate..

Alongside this legislation, some manufacturers may offer warranties or commercial guarantees at their own discretion. These may only provide cover for certain specified faults and for a limited period of time. The manufacturer is only liable to the consumer for to the extent specified in the warranty document. Many commercial warranties state that the purchaser is liable for delivery costs.

If the warranty states that you are responsible for the postage costs, then I’m afraid that you will have to pay these if you want to seek redress under your warranty. However, do remember that under consumer legislation, it is the seller who is responsible for remedying faulty products which they must do free of charge and any rights you may have under warranty operate alongside these statutory rights.

We would suggest that you write to the seller of the appliance pointing out the above and request that this repair is carried out free of charge. If you have further problems, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


This month’s Success Story:

 An Irish consumer reserved a rental car via a UK based website. On arrival at the pick-up location, the consumer was prevented from collecting the vehicle as he was unable to leave the requisite deposit on a single credit card. The consumer offered to split the deposit over two cards, both in his name, but this was not acceptable and so he eventually had to book a car elsewhere. The website was unclear in detailing the deposit requirements but refused to refund the consumer. Following intervention from ECC Ireland, he received a full refund of €54.


What’s new?

Its Single Market Month! The European Commission has organised a month of online debates between individuals, businesses, organisations, policy-makers and Europe’s leaders to discuss ideas to improve the European Single Market. To share your ideas and find out more go to 



This Month’s Survey

Here in ECC Ireland we are always interested to hear what you think. This month we would like to know if you have ever had a problem with an item bought online from outside the EU?



If you want more information about this or any other cross-border consumer issue you can contact us on 01 8797620 or at


The European Consumer Centre is funded by the European Commission and the National Consumer Agency.