Wednesday 24 January 2018

Buying customised goods online: the point of no return

Fergal O'Leary
Fergal O'Leary

Fergal O'Leary

Q I recently ordered a gold bracelet online, engraved with my niece's name. When it arrived, I was disappointed with it and decided to return it. I ordered it from a well-known British website that I have used before so I was confident if there was a problem, I could get it resolved easily. But the company is now refusing to take it back because it is engraved. Are they within their rights to do so?

Linda, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow

Fergal O'Leary replies:  Whenever you buy something from an EU website, you are given a "cooling-off" period of at least seven working days from the date you receive your goods in which to consider your purchase.

Before the end of the seven days, you can decide if you want to keep the goods, cancel the order, or return the goods at your own cost and get a refund. Your right to cancel does not apply in certain circumstances, such as where the goods are customised, which is unfortunately the case with the bracelet you bought.

This means that the online trader is within his rights to refuse to accept the bracelet, as it was customised to your specific requirements when you ordered it.

Q I own a one-bed apartment, which I bought with a tracker mortgage six years ago. The apartment is now only worth half of what I paid for it so I am in negative equity of €150,000. My girlfriend works from home so we want to get a bigger house with space for an office. We have saved a deposit for a new house but not enough to clear the negative equity. We're going to meet my bank to discuss a new mortgage option it has, where I can keep my tracker rate for a period of time if I buy a new house and also carry over my negative equity. We can afford higher repayments so I think this is a good option for us. Is there anything we should watch out for?

Sean, Sandyford, Dublin 18

A You need to carefully consider the affordability of any new mortgage now and in the future. Ask your bank to explain what portion of your new mortgage will be on the tracker rate – and the impact this will have on your repayments.

The bank may apply a margin in the region of 1 per cent on your existing tracker rate if you move, which will mean increased repayments on that part of your new mortgage. This increase in repayments is on top of any increase you will be paying as a result of borrowing more for a bigger house. You should also ask how long the new rate (tracker plus any margin applied by the bank) will last for.

Some banks may allow you to keep it for the lifetime of your existing mortgage, whereas other providers will only allow you to avail of it for a set period of time – after which your repayments will increase. It is important to understand that the tracker rate the bank is offering you will usually only apply to your existing mortgage – so you will be charged a variable or fixed-interest rate on anything you are borrowing over your existing mortgage.

Also, you will still need a deposit of about 10 per cent of the purchase price for any new property – so check the exact amount required with your lender. Make sure you read the terms and conditions of the new mortgage product.

And if you are successful in getting a new mortgage, you will have to review your current mortgage protection insurance policy or life assurance policy to see if it is still suitable.

Fergal O'Leary is director of public awareness with the National Consumer Agency

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