Doorstep selling, unlabelled blouses and problems with second-hand cars. What are your rights? Our expert has the answers
Q: I think I know my rights under the Sale of Goods Act but can you tell me if these are the same if I sign up or buy something on the doorstep or on the phone?
A: OK - first thing to know is that no matter how, from whom or where you buy something here in Ireland the same rights apply. These are, as you correctly say, provided for under the Sale of Goods & Supply of Services Act, 1980. The Act requires the item you buy to be of good quality, as it was described to you or in, for example, a brochure or picture, and fit for its purpose - the reason that you bought it at all. If it's not, then you are entitled to either a refund, a replacement or a repair (depending upon the item, time and usage since you bought it and so on). Under the Act one or more of these provisions must fail in order for you to complain or return the item.
This changes when you buy away from the sellers' premises and, at long last, you get additional rights. In complete contrast to what I have outlined above you have the right to change your mind! It is the same as buying online - you have a 14-day cooling-off period that allows you to cancel your order for the item. The same applies to a service sold to you.
In more specific terms I can tell you that once the total cost of the sale exceeds €50, then you must be provided with the name, telephone number and geographical location/address of the seller as well as detail of, for example, the term of any contract you are entering into and its total price inclusive of any and all charges including delivery. Finally, your rights to cancel as I have advised here must also be outlined to you with detail of how to make the cancellation. I still advise caution!
Q: I bought a blouse recently and it doesn't have a label telling me what it's made of or the washing or cleaning instruction. I have only noticed this now. Is that right? Is that allowed?
A: No, it's not right! There are some surprising gaps in what is provided for in law and hopefully I can clear this up for you. Manufacturers are required to label any clothing sold in the EU with reference to the fibre content. So, you must be told if it is cotton or wool or acrylic or whatever and the percentages of each in the garment - for example, 75pc wool; 25pc cotton. However, labels giving washing instructions or country of origin, believe it or not, are not legally required.
This is why you need to also take your time and be aware of how the item is advertised. For example, just because the packaging on a garment may be emblazoned with environmentally friendly messages, it does not mean that the blouse inside has the same credentials!
So, your blouse does not have the minimum labelling requirements, which is breaking the law and so you can go back to the seller, show them this reply and ask for your money back. You can also contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission if you need regulatory backup.
Q: I bought and paid good money for a second-hand car in February. Within two days it had broken down. It has been examined by a local garage mechanic who tells me it's a piece of junk and that I should get my money back as it will cost a fortune to repair. I bought it from my friend and he is refusing to take it back or give me my money back. What can I do and who do I go to?
A: I have included this question as, unlike the references I have made earlier, the reality is that this is a private sale which means that you are not protected under the provisions of consumer law, making it very difficult to resolve. Usually, precisely as is outlined here, in the absence of rules, checks or agreed terms, money passes hands and when there is a problem, it results in a bitter and divisive standoff.
All you can do is try to meet with your friend and outline what the mechanic found as being unfair for a car sold and immovable within 48 hours. Appeal to his good nature and your friendship.
Failing that, to be honest, the gloves have to come off and you need to employ a solicitor to fight for a refund. It's a case of resolution or revolution. On a precautionary note, can I offer 'friendly' advice and suggest that the cart was before the horse here: you needed the mechanic to check out the car before you bought it - not afterwards.
Dermott Jewell is a consumer rights expert and the Policy and Council Adviser at the Consumers' Association of Ireland. If you have a consumer-related query you'd like Dermott to help you with, get in touch at email@example.com