How to shop for a Halloween outfit - and make sure my child is safe
Q: I remember that a few years ago a child was badly burned after her Halloween costume caught on fire. I'm shopping for Halloween outfits and accessories and want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to my children. What should I look out for?
Rebecca, Lucan, Co Dublin
When you are shopping for costumes and costume accessories at Halloween, check they have the CE mark. Certain products, including toys, sold in the EU, must meet specific safety standards and the CE mark shows these standard have been met. The mark should appear on the product, in the instruction manual, or on the packaging. Children's costumes are classified as toys, so you should look for the CE mark when buying them. All masks and other similar Halloween props should also have a visible CE mark, and costume accessories such as swords or 'devil forks' should be made of soft, flexible material.
If you are buying props for your child's costume, remember these may not be classified as toys and therefore might not be safe for your child. Novelty Halloween lights, similar to Christmas lights, are also very popular at this time of year. All electrical products sold in the EU must comply with safety standards, so check they have a visible CE mark and have full contact details of the manufacturer and importer.
If buying face paints marketed at children (for example, with a picture of a child on the packaging), the paints should also have a CE mark. Always check that the packaging clearly lists ingredients and instructions for use in English, and has the manufacturer's and importer's contact details.
Q: I am organising a glamping trip for my sister and 10 of our friends for her hen night and I found a great site in Cork. The only catch is the owner is insisting I pay the total cost of our accommodation upfront, directly into her account by bank transfer. When I asked her why, she said it is to protect her from "no shows". She seems legit and gets good reviews online but I'm wary of transferring so much cash before we even get there. Do I have any other option? Niamh, Birdhill, Co Tipperary
Once you transfer money from your bank account to another, it is gone and you cannot reverse the transfer if you need to. So if you have any issues with the glamping site after you arrive and these issues are not resolved to your satisfaction, it could be very hard for you to get your money back.
You could ask the owner if you could pay a small deposit now and the balance on arrival. Or ask if you can pay by debit or credit card. Paying this way gives you protection in the form of a chargeback if the company goes out of business or doesn't deliver what it promised. The scheme enables you to claim a refund from your card provider in certain circumstances. It works by the card company trying to claim your money back from the company you have paid (by reversing the transaction). Check what your card provider's position on chargeback is. Each card issuer has its own processes concerning them, which are set out under the rules of the various credit and debit card schemes.
Social media shopping
Q: I was in need of a new mattress and saw a great deal for one on Facebook. I contacted the seller, on the number listed on his Facebook page. He said he wouldn't charge me a delivery fee if I paid him in cash. I have now had the mattress for less than a week and it has started to sag in the middle. The seller won't take my calls. How do I get my money back? Michael, Lucan, Co Dublin
It can be tempting to grab a good deal when it is only a click away, but it is always worth doing some background checks on the seller - especially if you have not bought from them or never heard of them before.
Did the seller you bought the mattress from have a website? If so, it should have a physical address and contact details, so you should try and make contact this way. If you are suspicious that the seller is not genuine, check if it is registered on the Companies Registration Office's website (www.cro.ie). If the seller is not registered, you may have bought from an individual, rather than a business - and in that case you don't have any consumer rights.
If the business is registered with the CRO, you should make a formal complaint in writing to the business, outlining the problem and how you would like it to be resolved. If something you buy online turns out to be faulty, you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund, depending on the fault.
If you need help writing your complaint, there are template complaint letters available onccpc.ie. If, following your complaint, you are still unhappy with the response, another option is to use the Small Claims Process. This can be done through your local district court and cases up to the value of €2,000 are accepted. There is a non-refundable fee of €25 to make a claim.
In general, before you buy anything online, research the seller first. Look for reviews of the website, to see if other consumers have any positive or negative feedback.
As well as legitimate businesses, there are a lot of scams active on Facebook, so it is important to protect yourself. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true - such as an expensive item at a very low price. Check out any reviews of the seller before you buy. Some post rave reviews about themselves, so always check, if you can, who the authors of reviews are. Finally, be very cautious if an online seller will only accept a money transfer or cash. Most legitimate sellers will accept more than one form of payment - and will usually accept payment by credit or debit card.
Mortgage cashback offers
Q: I'm a first-time buyer and am doing my research to see what my options are for taking out a mortgage. There are quite a few banks with very attractive cashback offers if you take out a mortgage with them. My budget will only stretch to a house that needs some work, so I am very tempted to go for one of these cashback offers. Are they a good idea? Marie, Walkinstown, Dublin 12
Because of the long-term nature of a mortgage (usually between 20 and 30 years), even a small difference in the interest rate you are paying can lead to big savings. Most banks are offering some form of introductory offer - such as a discounted interest rate for a certain time or getting cash back when you draw down your mortgage (and perhaps later, too).
If you need money to do up an older house, this will obviously be very appealing, but it's important to focus on the interest rate and make sure you compare it to other lenders in the market - otherwise you could end up paying more long-term for a short-term benefit. To help you decide which lender to use, park the cashback offer.
Be aware of any conditions attached to any cashback offer. For example, you may not be allowed to switch your mortgage to another lender for a certain number of years (often within the first five years). If you do want to switch lenders within that time, you may have to pay all or some of the offer back to the bank.
You can use the mortgage comparison on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's website (ccpc.ie) to compare mortgages from the different lenders.
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While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert for your query, this column is not intended to replace professional advice.
Sunday Indo Business