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22 Jan 2022

Your consumer rights guide to January returns and dealing with faulty goods

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From uncertainty about what to do with unwanted Christmas gifts, to doubts over how long you have to return a faulty item, you may find yourself wondering what consumer rights and protections you have, now that the festive season is over. To help clarify any post-Christmas confusion, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has put together a consumer rights guide, with practical information and top tips.

FAULTY GOODS

If you bought an item or received a gift over Christmas, which turns out to be faulty, under EU consumer protection law, you have the right to either: a refund, a repair, a replacement product or a reduction in price, as a solution. This is regardless of whether you bought the item online, instore, at full price, or at a discount.  Consumer protection law doesn’t currently set out exactly what you are entitled to when you return a faulty item, so it is up to you to negotiate with the business and agree which option suits you best.

Research commissioned by the CCPC showed that the vast majority (99%) of consumers didn’t realise they can have up to 6 years to return faulty goods. However, how long the item was used for is considered when resolving issues, so you should act quickly as soon as you notice a fault. Contact the retailer who sold you the item as soon as you can, along with proof of purchase (such as a till receipt), to negotiate a suitable solution.

The CCPC’s research showed that, when asked about the returns period for faulty goods, 45% of consumers believe that it depends on the details of the product guarantee or warranty, which is not the case. Both guarantees and warranties are in addition to your consumer rights, they do not replace them! This means that even if your product guarantee or warranty has expired, you may still be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund, as covered by your statutory rights.

PRODUCT GUARANTEES & WARRANTIES

Product guarantees and warranties can be popular add-ons for certain types of goods, such as electronics, laptops and smartphones, particular around Christmas time. Although they may offer additional assurances (e.g. a guaranteed timeframe, or to cover costs against damage or cracked screen repairs etc.) it’s important to know that they are different to your statutory consumer rights. This is particularly important when it comes to faulty goods.

The CCPC’s research showed that the majority (89%) of those surveyed knew to ask the retailer who sold them the faulty item to fix the problem. A large cohort of respondents also identified the product’s warranty provider (68%) and the product manufacturer (50%) as also being responsible for offering a solution.

When it comes to fixing the problem of an item that turns out to be faulty, you should know that irrespective of whether you have a guarantee or warranty, the retailer who sold you the item is responsible for resolving the issue, you don’t have to deal with the manufacturer. This is important to be aware of, particularly in instances where a retailer may tell you to contact the manufacturer directly – as this is the retailer’s responsibility, not yours.

CHANGE-OF-MIND RETURNS

If you bought an item, but have changed your mind about it, or if you received an unwanted Christmas gift and wish to return it, the first thing that you need to be aware of is that your rights and entitlements are different depending on whether the item was bought online, or in-store. If you buy something online and subsequently change your mind, under EU consumer protection law, you have 14 days from the day the item arrives, to cancel your order and then 14 days from when you cancel, to return the items and get a full refund. If you got something as a gift, the person who bought it online may be able to return it if it's within 14 days.

However, if you change your mind about an item you bought in-store, your rights and entitlements will depend on the store’s own returns policy, unless the item is faulty. Most stores will offer a returns period, however, it’s important to be aware that this is a goodwill gesture on the part of the store, not a legal obligation. So be sure to check out the ‘change-of-mind returns’ policy on the business’s website, or on your till or gift receipt.

DELIVERY DELAYS

If you bought items online before Christmas from an EU website, but they were either delayed or never arrived, it’s important to know that you have strong rights when it comes to delivery timeframes. If you haven’t received your delivery, and the business told you they would deliver it by a certain date, then you are entitled to: 

  • Agree a different date, or
  • Cancel the contract and get a full refund 

If you were not given a delivery timeframe, then, under consumer law, the business must deliver your order within 30 days. Don’t forget that you also have 14 days to change your mind if the product arrives too late.

It’s also important to be aware that a business is responsible for goods until they are delivered to you, unless you organised your own delivery. This means that if a business organises a courier to deliver an item to you, they must ensure its delivery and if the item is not delivered they should organise a replacement or a refund.

EU Vs NON-EU CONSUMER RIGHTS

When it comes to items you bought online, one of the most important things to be aware of is that your consumer rights are different depending on where the business you bought from is based. If the goods were bought from an EU-based business you have strong consumer protections, including the right to a refund for change of mind returns (as detailed above) and faulty items.

However, if the goods were bought from a non-EU website, this means that these rights do not automatically apply and therefore, if something does go wrong or you wish to return or exchange an item or gift, it may be more difficult to get the issue resolved. However, be sure to check the business’s website to check the T&Cs for any additional information on your right to a refund and, if it’s not clear, contact the business directly to explain your circumstances and ask what options are available to you.

For more information on your consumer rights when shopping, visit www.ccpc.ie

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