Saturday 29 April 2017

Ding dong warily... all the shopping rights you need to know at Christmas

Shoppers carry Christmas shopping on Grafton Street, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Shoppers carry Christmas shopping on Grafton Street, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Santa hasn't even donned his red hat yet, and already our thoughts are turning to shopping. No, not all the gifts we have to buy, but the sales and bargains we want for ourselves.

Buying at this time of year can be fraught. You are pressurised, battling the crowds and trying to make sure your credit card doesn't melt when it's handed over. Here is a guide to your rights when it comes to gifts, vouchers and sales purchases.

Sales

The good news is that your consumer rights are exactly the same during a sale.

The bad news is that those rights only extend to returning an item if it is faulty, not as described, or unfit for purpose. They do not cover you changing your mind.

Unless you have a gift receipt from the store, and they are happy to exchange or refund on items, they do not have to take stock back.

Returns

If the item warrants a return, you are entitled to it under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980.

The store can offer to repair a faulty item first, and often will for electrical goods or gadgets. You should let them, but only once. If there is no improvement, you are entitled to a replacement or refund.

You are entitled to the full price paid, even if the item is currently on sale. You may be asked for proof of purchase. If you have no receipt, your bank statement that shows the transaction is sufficient.

Online purchases

Your rights are even stronger when you shop online, sale or not. You are allowed to return goods within 14 days, even for you changing your mind.

Price Reductions

An item on 'sale' must have been sold at the original or higher price for a minimum of 28 days.

It is illegal for shops to 'bait and switch' - in other words, state something is at a sale price, only for them to 'offer' you an alternative, which is priced higher. Tickets must show the original and current price.

Vouchers

Vouchers are versatile and useful but cause more hassle than any other gift item.

According to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, around 48pc of vouchers remain unused.

There are different types: gift vouchers are paper based and if they get lost, there's no comeback.

Gift cards are plastic, credit card-type vouchers. They can be replaced if lost, as stores usually keep records. However, charges for the replacement can be a whopping €7.50 in Dundrum Town Centre and €8 in Cork's Mahon Point.

Expiry dates

Given the company has already received the money, it is outrageous that they would then slap on a use-by date.

The law doesn't force retailers to put expiry dates on vouchers; so you may need to ask if one applies.

Legislation to ban expiry dates was supposed to be introduced during the summer, but hasn't been yet.

Some even charge an 'inactive balance fee' if the card isn't redeemed within a year. Blanchardstown, Mahon Point, Galway and Dundrum shopping centres all do this, deducting €3 per month from month 13.

Irish Independent

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