How do I buy safe costumes and games for kids’ Halloween party?
Q I’m having a Halloween party in my house for my children and some of their friends. I need to buy costumes for my son and daughter, aged 5 and 3, as well as party games and decorations for the house. I do most of my shopping online these days. Given the age of my kids and their friends, how can I make sure what I buy is 100pc safe? Jo, Co Louth
A When shopping online, know that all toys, costumes and accessories sold within the EU, which are intended for children under the age of 14, must meet certain product safety standards. For example, manufacturers must ensure they are made from non-toxic materials which won’t burn easily. They must also make sure that any part of children’s toys, costumes or accessories that could potentially come loose shouldn’t be small enough for a child to swallow — and that electrical toys are properly insulated and protected from live wires being exposed.
There are a number of things to look out for when shopping online for children’s Halloween items.
First, check for the CE mark on children’s toys, costumes, masks, wigs and other similar Halloween costume accessories before you buy them. The CE mark is a manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with EU safety regulations and standards. The CE mark should appear on the product, in the instruction manual or on the packaging and be easy to read.
Second, always buy from reputable retailers. If buying online, it can be hard to know who you are buying from — so do some quick research and check reviews and social media pages. Check where the business is based. If you can’t find this information easily, approach with caution. If the business is based outside the EU, consider finding an alternative EU store to ensure you have stronger rights should an issue arise in the future.
Third, check for detachable parts smaller than the €2 coin. One of the biggest dangers for children is small or detachable parts of toys, costumes or accessories, as they can lodge in their ears, nose or throat, and cause an injury — or be a choking hazard to small children.
Fourth: Check age guidance instructions on all children’s toys before you buy them — in particular for children up to three-years-old. Age labelling is the manufacturer’s way of telling you whether the toys are safe for a child of a particular age. Be sure to consider any younger children in the household who might be in danger if they play with the toy also.
I am looking for the best credit card for a student
Q I’ve just started college. I’m thinking about getting a student credit card — so I don’t have to keep asking my parents for money every time I want to go out or go away for the weekend. Do you have any advice about student credit cards? Laura, Co Waterford
A Before considering what type of credit options may work best for you, your first step should be to make a weekly budget. Add up any regular income you may have — such as from a part-time job or regular allowance and so on. Then list your regular expenses — such as transport, lunches, books and stationary, as well as social expenses (such as nights out with friends).
Sticking to a budget can make a huge difference to your finances and can help you decide what is really important and what can be cut out. If you find you are spending beyond your means, take a look at the spending calculator on ccpc.ie. This will help you figure out where you can cut back and what you can cut out — to help you save a little extra for your travel plans.
Budget as best you can — so as to avoid relying on credit to fund your lifestyle. If you do have a credit card, minimise how often you use it to cover your day-to-day expenses. The temptation can be to only pay off the minimum balance on your credit card each month — but this will cost you a lot in interest and it could take several years for you to pay off a large balance.
If you have a credit card, make sure you get one with the lowest interest rate possible — with no annual fees and just enough of a credit limit to get you by in an emergency.
There are some small steps you can take to help you keep your debt to a minimum and ensure that your future credit rating is not affected. Firstly: keep your credit limit low and don’t view it as a spending target. Second: reduce the credit limit to an amount you can comfortably afford to repay every month — so you don’t run up debt you can’t repay. Third: don’t use your card for cash withdrawals except in emergencies — as you will be charged a high rate of interest (often from the day you take out the money) as well as a cash advance fee. Fourth: set up a monthly standing order or direct debit for the minimum monthly repayment, (or more if you can afford it) to avoid late payments on your credit card bill. Late payments can also appear on your credit history and may impact your ability to borrow in the future.
We are not happy with our new broadband package
Q I recently signed up to a new contract with a broadband provider — but soon after, realised that the package didn’t meet my family’s needs. I’ve been trying to get through to its helpline for almost a week now — but it just rings out. I’m worried the cancellation period will run out before I get through. What can I do? Sean, Co Cork
A I’m assuming you signed up to this service online. When you sign up to a service online, you have a number of rights under the Consumer Rights Directive. For example, you have the right to change your mind and cancel your contract within the first 14 days from when you sign up — without having to pay a penalty or cancellation fee. You do not have to give any reason for cancelling — but you may have to pay for the cost of returning any equipment to the broadband provider, which in this case may be items such as a modem, cable wires and attachments. If you choose to cancel, the service provider is legally obliged to refund you within 14 days. The refund must also include any delivery costs you had to pay.
Under consumer protection law, online service providers must outline the cancellation process to you in advance and ensure there is a clear and easy way of contacting them — so you can exercise your right to cancel within the 14-day timeframe. They therefore are not allowed to make it difficult for you to notify them that you wish to cancel your contract. Where an online service provider insists you call a helpline in order to cancel, then it must provide this service.
Online service providers must also detail their contact information on their website — including an email address. This is to ensure you have a clear and easy way of communicating with them if, for example, you cannot get through to speak to someone via their helpline number. Alternatively, you can send a letter by post or even a fax, clearly stating that you wish to cancel your contract. In all cases, you should act fast, so be sure to notify them as soon as possible within the 14 days.
Keep a record of all communications you have with the service provider, in case something goes wrong. If sending a letter, be sure to send it by registered post.