Know your rights: Waiving of a cooling-off period and 12-year-old vouchers found
What are your rights? Our expert has the answers...
Q: Hi Dermott. Please can you confirm if a cooling-off period can still apply if I inadvertently signed a waiver to it? I honestly can't believe I did it but I've just had documents emailed to me and it looks very much like I have signed under the waiver.
As you can imagine time is of the essence - I signed the paperwork on Friday (it's Monday now). I am looking forward to hearing from you. Maura
A: Hello Maura. It's not clear from your email whether this is an online purchase or not and the answers are very different depending upon which one applies here.
When buying offline and entering into a contract, any cooling-off period will come, generally, with the condition that none of the benefits of the transaction commence until the consumer agrees that they are satisfied with the terms and conditions. An example of this is with a car purchase. There is a cooling-off period available but 99% of consumers waive their right to it because they want the car immediately. The contract therefore becomes binding and the usual guarantee, warranty and consumer rights apply from that date.
It is entirely different if buying online. If you are buying goods then a 14-day cooling-off period starts from the day you receive delivery of the item. If it's a contract for a service then the 14-day period starts the day you agree the contract because the service becomes immediately available to you from that date.
Most important - and critical to your question - is that when you buy online, under the protection of the Consumer Rights Directive, you are entitled to a cooling-off period - which cannot be waived!
No provider can seek to have you sign away that online entitlement.
I hope this helps.
Q: Dear Dermott, I would appreciate if you would let me know the position regarding vouchers for a restaurant which have no expiry dates indicated but which were mislaid and found recently during our house renovations. They are now over 12 years old but, as indicated, the restaurant has had the benefit of the substantial monetary value of the vouchers. I have not contacted the restaurant pending your response.
A: Dear Leah. This is difficult in terms of the length of time that has passed between purchase and potential use as, in accounting terms, there is every likelihood that the liability has been written out of the business accounts. Having said that, in the absence of any legal provision, as you point out, the vouchers are without an expiry date that therefore, as vouchers sold as the equivalent of cash, can be offered by means of payment. I am aware of certain business owners who regard all of their vouchers as valid, regardless of age. This is great business practice in terms of customer relations and appreciation. I suggest you contact the restaurant and discuss in this context with the expectation that they will be accepted. Let me know how you get on!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org