What do you do when your new vacuum cleaner breaks? And can you exchange a faulty gift? Our expert has the answers
Q: I bought a vacuum cleaner in February and it stopped working. I brought it back to the shop last Saturday and was told they couldn't do anything and that I should contact the manufacturer directly. Shouldn't he be helping me?
A You are entirely right - they should be taking care of this problem and without fobbing you off and advising that you need to personally contact the manufacturer. As consumers we enter in contracts with retailers all day, every day. When you bought the unit, you made a contract with the seller, not with the manufacturer. This means it is the seller's responsibility to solve any problem related with the item. If that seller can't repair your faulty vacuum cleaner, then he should contact the manufacturer for you - it's not your responsibility.
Of course, you might prefer to deal directly with the manufacturer to solve the problem more quickly, and you are entitled to do so. But this does not absolve the seller from responsibility, because if the problem persists, he is still responsible for fixing it.
Your rights and protection come under the provisions of the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, and requires the cleaner to be of good quality, as described and fit for the purpose, which you paid the seller for, as a part of your contract. If it is not, then the Act outlines how, as a consumer, you are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair, depending on the situation and your options.
Call and advise them of your rights and entitlements here and how, in the event that they continue to deny them to you, you will report this directly to the recently established Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), who will not appreciate the breach of the Act they are responsible for upholding and enforcing on behalf of consumers in Ireland.
Q: My new toaster, which is just two months old, broke. The shop repaired it, but it's broken again. Do I have to settle for another repair?
A This causes a lot of confusion. As I outlined above, under Irish consumer law, if a purchased item develops a fault within a reasonable period, then the consumer is entitled to a refund, a replacement, or a repair. The problem lies in the definition of a 'reasonable period' and so it varies depending on the product, and so can affect your entitlements. The newer the item, the more likely that you will get a replacement or refund, while with older purchases, you may have to accept whichever remedy is offered.
However, a repair should always be permanent. So, if it doesn't last, you can reject the option of a further repair and insist on a replacement or a refund. Most retailers will quickly acknowledge this as the right and fair solution. If your request is denied you can advise that you will therefore be making a claim through the Small Claims Court. This usually focuses attention to the problem! Details are available at www.courts.ie and the fee is €25.
Q We received a kettle as a present and it doesn't work. What are my rights?
A You have a problem from the outset. The recipient of a gift does not have consumer rights. This is because you have not made the purchase and so the existing consumer contract is between the seller and the person who bought your gift. A retailer only needs to deal with the person who holds proof of purchase - a receipt or bank/credit card statement showing and proving the item was purchased in that store.
So, the best thing that you can do is to explain your problem to the person who gave you the present and ask him or her to detail where and when the kettle was bought and either give you the receipt of its purchase or return it themselves to the shop.
This is an interesting query as we are inclined to ignore or throw away the manufacturer's guarantee, which comes with these products and which gives additional protection. A guarantee supplements your consumer rights and indicates that the manufacturer will offer a redress if the item is faulty. It is normally registered under the name of the owner, not of the buyer, and it gives rights to the owner which are very useful in cases such as yours because you do not have to show proof of purchase to make a claim.
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