Query: Shortly after the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus situation a pandemic, I ordered a toy for my daughter's birthday from an online business. I paid for express delivery, but it still hasn't arrived. Her birthday is tomorrow, so I have had to buy her something else. As the toy didn't arrive on time from the online business, can I ask for a refund? And what happens if the item is delivered in the coming days? Áine, Co Wexford
Answer: Due to the Covid-19 situation, businesses such as online retailers may be continuing to have difficulties meeting agreed delivery times. However, irrespective of the situation, consumer law still applies and if you bought the toy from a website within the EU, you have strong rights. As you paid for express delivery and your order hasn't arrived when the business said it would, you now have two options: contact the business to agree a different delivery date that suits you, or cancel the order and get a refund.
If you choose a refund, you can either cancel your order before the toy arrives, or you have up to 14 days after the toy arrives to let the retailer know you would like a refund. After this, you have another 14 days to return the toy to the retailer. When you are returning something, the business can hold on to your refund until it has proof that you have sent the goods back to it. Also, if you choose to return the toy, you may not be refunded for the express delivery charge, but it's important to know that you are entitled to claim back the cost of standard delivery - so make sure you check the refunded amount.
If you bought the present from a website based outside the EU, you do not have the same level of protection, so you will need to check the terms and conditions on the business website to see if you can cancel your order and get a full refund.
If the goods aren't delivered and you are having trouble getting a refund of your money and you have paid by credit or debit card, you could try a chargeback. To do this you need to contact your credit or debit card provider and it will take you through the process to reverse the transaction. More information about chargebacks can be found on www.ccpc.ie.
Faulty freezer repair woes
Query: I recently bought an American-style fridge freezer from a well-known business. After a few weeks, I noticed the temperature gauge wasn't working properly. I contacted the business to let it know about the issue and it told me to contact the manufacturer directly. If I have a guarantee, can the business direct me to the manufacturer, as opposed to fixing my problem? Gerry, Co Cork
Answer: No, you do not have to deal directly with the manufacturer - you can insist that the business resolves the issue. A guarantee or warranty (which you usually have to pay for) gives you additional protection if something goes wrong.
However, you are still protected by your consumer rights regardless of any warranty. Often warranties can be more generous - for example, they may also cover accidental damage, but they do sometimes have exclusions and many run out after one year whereas your consumer rights don't.
Consumer protection law means that you and the business should agree how the fault will be sorted out. Your contract is with the business that sold you the item, so if there is a fault it is up to it to fix it and not the manufacturer. You can ask for a refund, repair, replacement or reduction in price as a solution. However, the law doesn't 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.
As you discovered a fault with your fridge freezer within the first six months of owning it, it is considered that the fault was there when you bought it and you are entitled to have the item repaired or replaced free of charge.
In general, the seller can offer to repair the item first. This should be a permanent repair. If the same fault occurs again, then you should be entitled to a replacement or refund.
The main thing to do is act quickly. You should send the business an email if it is closed. Its contact details should be available on its website. In the email, you should set out what resolution you would like to the issue. If you are not happy with the business's response, you should write a letter of complaint to its head office. There are template letters on the CCPC's website which may help.
Recourse after poor plumbing job
Query: I hired a local plumber to fix an issue we were having with our shower. A few days after finishing the job, a part of the ceiling in our kitchen (which is directly beneath the bathroom shower) started to leak. I've tried contacting the plumber, but he isn't answering my calls. What are my rights and what actions can I take to fix the problem? Sarah, Dublin city
Answer: You have a number of rights as a consumer when you buy or engage a service. In your particular situation, you have the right to expect that the service you purchased is provided with the proper care and attention. If you are not entirely happy with the work carried out and feel that the plumber did not provide a proper service with the necessary care and diligence, you are entitled to have the problem sorted out. It's important to know that this applies regardless of whether your agreement with him was written or verbal.
A verbal contract is as valid and binding as a written one.
The first step should be to talk to your plumber and explain why you are not happy - and try to agree how the problem can be solved. However, if your plumber continues to ignore your calls, consider writing a letter of complaint to him directly if he is a sole trader - or to head office, if he is part of a larger organisation. If he (or head office) is unwilling to complete the work properly or give you a refund or reduction in price, the next step may be to take legal action. If the job was for less than €2,000, you can follow the small claims procedure. Claims can be made for faulty goods, bad workmanship or minor damage to property.
The small claims procedure is a relatively cheap, fast and easy way for consumers to resolve some types of disputes - generally without having to use a solicitor. If your claim is likely to be more than €2,000, you can choose to take further legal action against a tradesperson or builder. In this case, you may want to seek independent legal advice from a solicitor.
Sunday Indo Business