Tuesday 16 January 2018

Can a shop only refund the lower sale price of faulty bag - rather than the full price paid?

'It is important to know that your consumer rights don't change in a sale.' File photo: Depositphotos
'It is important to know that your consumer rights don't change in a sale.' File photo: Depositphotos

Fergal O'Leary

My husband bought me an expensive handbag for my birthday. When I went to use it, I noticed one of the straps had become loose and the stitching was unravelling.

My husband paid full price for the bag. However, when he tried to return it, the shop told him that the bag had sold out a few weeks ago when it went on sale - so the best it could offer him was a refund of the lower sale price. Is this legal?

Gemma, Lucan, Co Dublin

It is important to know that your consumer rights don't change in a sale. If something you bought turns out to be faulty, and the item is then on sale, your consumer rights are the same as at any other time of the year.

You are still entitled to a refund of the full price - or a replacement of the same value. You do not have to accept a refund of the lower sale price if the goods are faulty. However, if you were told about a fault in a product before you bought it, then you may not be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement. You will need proof of purchase such as a receipt or credit or debit card statement to prove you paid the full price.

You did the right thing by returning the bag to the shop you bought it from as it is its responsibility to resolve the issue for you. The shop's obligations do not change if there is a sale on and it should not use this as an excuse.

It might be worth returning to the shop and asking to speak to the manager. Show the manager the loose strap and faulty stitching and explain that under consumer law, you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund. If you are unhappy with the response the retailer offers you, make a formal complaint to it in writing. Further details on how to complain to a retailer are available on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's consumer website, www.consumerhelp.ie.


I am unhappy with the service provided by the company that we used to supply and fit our kitchen. Do I have the right to withhold the final payment (which is 10pc of the total cost of the kitchen) because I'm not happy with the job?

Basically, the company fitted the kitchen at the end of February. It took them until mid-June to complete a snag list of items. The customer service provided by the company was very poor - and it took a long time to get back to us about when it was going to sort out problems.

Jean, Carrigaline, Co Cork

If you employ a company to carry out a service for you, it should do so with proper care and attention. It should have the appropriate skills to do the work. Any materials it uses should be fit for purpose and any goods it supplies to you as part of the service must be of acceptable quality.

You are obviously unhappy with the service provided by the company who fitted your kitchen and how you were treated by the company when you contacted them. There is no law covering the standard of customer service provided by private companies but the work should have been done to an acceptable standard. You should make a formal complaint to the company outlining your dissatisfaction.

If the company has carried out the work that you agreed to, it is reasonable that it should expect to be paid the agreed price for it. There is a responsibility on you and the trader to stick to the original agreement - that is, for the company to supply and fit the kitchen, and for you pay the agreed amount for the work. If you do withhold the outstanding balance, the company could pursue you legally for this. If this happens, you may need to seek legal advice.


We booked flights at Christmas to Gran Canaria and took out travel insurance. Due to a medical emergency, we were unable to travel. However, when we went to make a claim under our travel insurance, the insurance company told us that it only covers flights to the UK and Channel Islands.

What grounds do we have to appeal this?

John, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow

Your claim can be refused for a number of reasons - including if what you are claiming for is not covered by your policy. If your claim is refused, your insurance company or broker must write to you to explain the reasons why your claim was refused and give you details of how to appeal the decision.

If you feel your claim should not have been rejected, check the details of your policy to see if the facts fit the reason for the rejection. Check you gave all the correct details in the beginning. Note down or highlight the exact wording in your policy that you think covers your situation. Keep a note if the wording is poorly explained or unclear as your insurance company must give you clear information.

If you find you have grounds for appeal, you should contact the travel insurance company and outline your case. If you are not satisfied with its response, you can then send your complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO).

Should you ask the FSO to investigate your complaint, it will request a Final Response letter from the insurance company. Make sure you get this letter from the insurance company at the end of the process. Also, if you bought your travel insurance from a travel agent as part of a package, you can contact the Irish Travel Agents Association about your complaint.


We are moving house in the next few weeks. I notified my broadband provider of the move as I need to cancel my contract because it doesn't provide broadband in the town I am moving to. However, it is trying to charge me €200 as it says I have signed up for a year-long contract. Can it do this?

Derek, Walkinstown, Dublin 12

Typically with a service such as broadband, you sign up for a minimum period - often a year. It's important to check what the contract period is, and what exactly you are committing to, before you sign up. In most contracts, penalties apply if you decide to exit early - even if you have a genuine reason such as moving to another area.

Unfortunately, if you're still within your contract, the only thing you can do is cancel it and pay the cancellation fee or try and come to some goodwill agreement with the firm. Once you have agreed to the service, you have also agreed to the terms and conditions and are bound by them.

These are set at the company's own discretion, and if you agree to a service or contract without reading the terms and conditions, you are still bound by them.

Some suppliers offer broadband without having to sign up to a contract. It might be worth having a look at ComReg's consumer website (www.callcosts.ie) to check the best price on offer for your individual needs before you sign-up for another broadband contract. It details most telephone, mobile and broadband plans available in Ireland.


Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.

While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

Fergal O'Leary is Director of Communications and Market Insight with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Sunday Indo Business

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