Recovering deposit after cancelling contract
Q A sales agent rang to say his company was in my area doing house calls to upgrade the heating system in local houses. I made an appointment for them to come and agreed to sign up to have the work done. Since then, a neighbour told me some negative things about the company based on things he has heard in our neighbourhood and I don't want to go ahead. I have paid a €1,000 deposit. Where do I stand? Emma, Crumlin, Dublin 12
It is a good idea to look for reviews or references about a company you are not familiar with, particularly if spending a large sum of money with them. Always do your homework before committing to anything on the spot.
When you sign up to a contract for a service in your home, you have the same consumer rights as when you buy in a shop. But you also have some additional rights. If a salesperson representing a business calls to your home, and if the goods you buy cost €50 or more, then you must be given a written cancellation form. In most cases, you have the right to cancel the contract within 14 days - a time frame known as the 'cooling-off' period. If you want to cancel but you are outside your 14-day statutory cooling-off period, you will be subject to any cancellation policy of the company. Contact the company as soon as possible and check its policy.
In your case, you should have received the cancellation form when you signed the contract. It should be clear and easy to read - and not hidden away in small print. It should include the name of the business and give the name and address of a person that the cancellation form should be sent to, and the date that the notice was given to you. Once you are within 14 days of the date you signed up to the service, you can complete the cancellation form and return it to the company stating your intention to cancel and requesting a refund of the €1,000 deposit you paid.
If you cancel within the cooling-off period and run into difficulties getting a refund of your deposit, another option is the Small Claims procedure. This is a relatively cheap, fast and easy way for consumers to resolve some types of disputes, generally without having to use a solicitor, if the claim is for €2,000 or less.
Student loan for summer trip
Q I am planning to go on a working holiday this summer and will be taking out a loan to cover the cost of my trip. As I have never taken out a loan before, what should I look out for?
Sean, Galway City
When taking out a loan, there is a lot to consider: how much you need to borrow, how much you can afford to repay and how quickly you can pay it back. If borrowing to fund your summer away, aim to have the loan paid back as quickly as possible, and certainly before next summer rolls around. Before you borrow, work out how much you can realistically afford to pay back each month. Ask yourself how much you need to borrow and don't be tempted to borrow more than you need or can afford to repay.
Before taking out a loan, check if the repayments start immediately or if they can be deferred for three months - as is the case with some student loans. Other student loans charge interest only for an agreed period of time, followed by interest and capital repayments. This can make your repayments lower in the first few months and could suit you while you are away travelling.
Credit always comes at a cost as you pay interest on what you borrow. The CCPC has a student loan comparison on its website ccpc.ie which currently shows interest on a student loan of €1,000 over one year ranges from 1pc to 9.7pc.
If your loan is for more than €500, it will be recorded on the Central Credit Register - which is run by the Central Bank of Ireland. Information, such as outstanding loan balances and any missed repayments is held on the Register for a period of five years from when it is first submitted. So if you miss payments on your loan, this will damage your credit record and impact on your ability to get a loan or mortgage in the future.
Renting a car for holiday
Q I want to rent a car for my summer holiday. I have heard horror stories from others who have returned a hire car in perfect condition only for the rental company to take a huge payment off their credit card for alleged damage to the rental car. Can I insure myself to avoid something similar happening?
Sheila, Trim, Co Meath
If renting a car online, the terms and conditions can sometimes be hard to find. Check the website under headings such as 'Frequently Asked Questions' or 'Requirements'. It is often the case that you do not pay for all charges when you book - some charges only become payable when you pick up the car. However, the total amount payable should be clear.
Understand the level of insurance cover included in the basic rental cost and whether you want to get additional insurance. If you take the 'standard' insurance from the car rental company, the excess (the first part of a claim you pay yourself) can be quite high and if the car is damaged (even if it's not your fault), a considerable amount of money could be taken from your credit card until the car rental company finishes carrying out its investigations.
Additional insurance can provide you with cover which would reduce the excess to zero and also provide for cover for theft, loss or personal accidents. If thinking about buying additional insurance through the car rental company, find out the daily cost, what the excess would be, and work out whether it might be cheaper to arrange your own cover independently before you go.
If unsure about any charges, particularly insurance charges and deposits, contact the company for clarification before booking the car. Even if you have booked in advance, remember that the rental contract only comes into effect when you sign the agreement.
Return with no refund
Q I bought a pair of designer sunglasses recently but when I got home, I decided they were not worth the money. I returned them to the shop, only to be told that I can only get a credit note and not a full cash refund. Is this right? Joe, Howth, Co Dublin
Yes, the shop is within its rights to refuse to give you a cash refund. Where there is no fault with an item and you want to return it simply because you don't want it, then you don't have an automatic right to return it and the shop's returns policy comes into play. Shops don't have to accept returns at all and are within their rights to refuse to give you anything, even a credit note. They can set their own returns policies and are not legally required to display their returns policy, even though many will in-store or on receipts.
However, many established retailers have very customer-friendly policies and do allow consumers to return unwanted items in exchange for a refund, credit note or another item in the shop.
Shops can sometimes change their returns policy during sales so always check with a shop about its individual policy before you buy. For example, some may not give you a refund if an item was on sale and will only exchange or give you a credit note or voucher.
If returning something and it's now on sale at a lower price, the shop may only refund the current sale price - that's if it is willing to give a refund at all.
Sunday Indo Business