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30 Nov 2021

CCPC warns online shoppers: currency and IP address not a guarantee of business location

Christmas sales - how to bag a bargain and avoid the pifalls?

Ahead of next weekend’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is reminding online shoppers of the importance of checking where a business is based before they buy.

This follows research, commissioned by the CCPC, which shows that the majority of those who shop online look to the currency and IP address of the website before they buy goods. The CCPC is reminding consumers that neither can be used as guarantees of a business’s location and is urging them to check for a registered address before they buy, to ensure they have strong rights under EU consumer protection law.

LOCATION DETERMINES WHICH CONSUMER RIGHTS APPLY 

The CCPC’s research findings confirm that most consumers are familiar with shopping online, with the majority (76%) of those surveyed having bought online over the previous 12 months. However, 32% of consumers believe that their rights are the same irrespective of where a business is based when in fact consumer rights do not automatically apply if you buy from a business based outside of the EU.

When shopping online, it’s important that consumers check the registered address of a business before they make a purchase. This is an essential step, even if the site has a ‘.ie’ or ’.eu’ domain or displays prices in euros. If the registered address is outside of the EU (including the UK) then EU consumer rights do not automatically apply, which may make it more difficult for consumers to resolve any issues such as delayed deliveries or faulty products.

CONSUMER RIGHTS ARE NOT FOR SALE

When asked about what consumer rights apply when buying sale items, insights showed that 1 in 3 (34%) consumers did not realise their rights did not change, with 14% believing their consumer rights were different, depending on the price paid, 13% didn’t know what consumer rights applied to sale items and a further 7% believed they didn’t have any rights at all when buying items at sale price online.

One of the important protections online consumers have is the right to return a purchase and obtain a refund. Consumers have 14 days from when they receive their purchase to cancel the order and a further 14 days to return it. When asked about shopping online from EU-based businesses, only 1 in 6 (15%) correctly identified 28 as the total number of days they have to cancel their order and return the items, in order to receive a full refund.

The CCPC is encouraging consumers to be aware that, although they may pay less for a product in a sale, they still have the same consumer rights if an item turns out to be faulty, and they have the same rights and timeframes to change their mind and obtain a full refund.

MOST SHOPPERS CARRY OUT PRE-SALE PRICE CHECKS ON OFFERS

The CCPC’s insights show that 2 in 5 (39%) consumers are planning to make a purchase during the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Younger consumers are most likely to avail of the sales, with 75% of under-25s reporting that they are likely to make a purchase. Of those intending to snap up a bargain, 8 in 10 (79%) plan to carry out pre-sale research on prices to confirm that the retailer’s marked discount reflects the previous full price. However, pre-sale price checks were least likely to be carried out by those under 25 (28%).

The CCPC is encouraging consumers to do their research and to be cautious about taking offers at face value. Currently, if a business has products on offer at a reduced price, the products must have been on offer at the advertised original price for a reasonable period before the price was reduced. Consumers are encouraged to check a few different websites to compare prices before the sales start and then before they buy, so they can be confident they are getting a good deal. 

Grainne Griffin, Director of Communications with the CCPC said: “Many consumers will look to the Black Friday sales as an opportunity to get better value for money in their Christmas shopping or if they are planning to purchase a particularly expensive item. It’s very important for both consumers and businesses to know that when prices are reduced full consumer rights still apply when shopping within the EU. The most important detail that a consumer can check is not the price of the item but where the company is based as this will dictate your rights if something goes wrong or you change your mind about the purchase.

This is a busy and challenging time of the year for businesses and we are reminding businesses that consumer protection laws apply and misleading consumers is illegal. A product can only be advertised as reduced if it has been sold at the previous price for a reasonable timeframe. Our research shows that consumers are independently researching pre-sale prices and so it is also in the interest of businesses to clearly identity the period when a pre-sale price applied.

In light of the recent reports of shortages and delays, businesses also need to be aware that if they advertise a product for sale with delivery by a certain date, they need to stand by that commitment. In recent weeks, we took enforcement action against a business for misleading consumers about the availability of Play Station 5’s last Christmas. We will continue to monitor for similar misleading practices this Christmas and will use our powers to take enforcement actions against traders who breach consumer protection law.

If any consumer needs additional information on their consumer rights, of they are having difficulty with a purchase they can visit our website www.ccpc.ie or call our helpline on 01 402 5555.”

For more information on shopping online, visit www.ccpc.ie.

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