Business Personal Finance

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Refund after failed cancellation request

Your questions answered

When you take out a gym membership, you usually sign up to terms and conditions which outline the gym’s cancellation procedure.
When you take out a gym membership, you usually sign up to terms and conditions which outline the gym’s cancellation procedure.

Aine Carroll Director of communications and policy with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Query: When I was reviewing my bank statements recently, I noticed that I am still paying for a gym membership even though I cancelled it three months ago. When I followed up with the company to get a refund, it wouldn't entertain a refund without bank statements to prove that I've paid the membership for those months. This will cost me as I have to pay to get the statements from my bank. Can the company do this? Sorcha, Cork city

Answer: When you take out a gym membership, you usually sign up to terms and conditions which outline the gym's cancellation procedure. If you then decide to cancel your membership, you need to follow this procedure to ensure your membership is cancelled correctly.

The first step is to check you followed the company's cancellation policy. Check your original contract to get further detail. Then see if you have evidence of your request to cancel - and that you got confirmation from the gym that it received your request and cancelled your membership.

If you paid by direct debit, you can cancel the direct debit by writing to both your bank and the gym to inform them of the cancellation, if you have not done so already. You should keep a copy of the cancellation in case of a dispute. When you contact your bank, you will need to provide your account details, the name of the gym and any other details relevant to the payment.

If you feel the direct debit the gym is taking from you is unauthorised, you can request a refund immediately and get a refund of payments taken up to the previous eight weeks. You can also request a refund for any unauthorised direct debits after eight weeks and within 13 months from the date on which the payment was debited. However, after the eight-week period you may need to provide additional information or proof the transaction was unauthorised.

Dodgy buy at car boot sale

Query: I recently bought a 'nearly new' phone charger at a car boot sale. I paid very little for it but when I used it, the charger started to get very hot and it has damaged my phone. The seller lives locally. Can I insist on him paying for the damage to my phone? Lorraine, Wicklow

Answer: If you buy second-hand items from another consumer, you have no consumer rights as you are not buying from a business. The item only has to be owned by the seller and fit their description. So it is important to check goods before you buy and it's very much a case of "buyer beware".

You can always contact the seller, explain your problem calmly but firmly and ask for what you want. If the seller makes you an offer, you can either accept or continue to negotiate. But be realistic in what you will accept.

Another option is to consider taking legal action but this is time-consuming and expensive and you are not guaranteed a better outcome. Before starting court action, you need to consider whether you have sufficient evidence. For example, can you say and prove with absolute certainty it was the charger that caused the damage to your phone?

Finally, always try to buy chargers from a reputable retailer and check they have a CE mark and that the manufacturer's name and contact address is present. With poor quality chargers there is a greater risk of electrocution, fire or damage to the electronic equipment.

Refund for online customer

Query: I am a small business selling hand-made cards through my social media business page. One customer recently tried to cancel her order after she received her cards, saying she doesn't like them and wants a full refund. Can she do this? I have a no-refunds policy clearly stated on my page. Jimmy, Co Monaghan

Answer: If you are a business selling online, either through a website or on social media, this means you must comply with the regulations in the Consumer Rights Directive. This directive gives online shoppers strong protections when they buy from a business in the EU. This is because when consumers shop online, they are buying from a distance so these rights allow them to examine what they have bought, see if they are happy with it and, if not, return it to the business and get a full refund.

Your customers can cancel an online order - once it is not custom-made for them - up to 14 days after they receive it. This means they have the right to cancel an order for any reason within this period and get a full refund, including any standard delivery costs they have paid. They are allowed to remove the packaging, examine the item and make sure they are happy with it.

Your customer is within her rights to return the cards to you because she doesn't like them and get a full refund. This right applies even if you stated in your terms and conditions that you have a no-refunds policy. The customer must ensure the cards are kept in good condition until they are sent back to you.

As your customer is cancelling the order because she changed her mind, she has to pay for the cost of returning the cards if you clearly stated this in your terms and conditions. If you didn't, she does not have to pay for the cost of returning them. She is entitled to a refund within 14 days of cancelling, but you can wait to refund her until you have received the cards or have proof of return postage.

Crypto-currency scam

Query: A friend of mine recently shared a post on Facebook about a get-rich-quick crypto-currency scheme. The scheme looked genuine and was fronted by a well-known celebrity. However, when I looked into it further, I found out that it's a scam. Is there anything people can do to stop these kind of scams? Joe, Raheny, Dublin 5

Answer: You may have heard stories of people making a fortune after investing in crypto-currency but, as with any form of investing, it's important to understand the risks first. Scammers are active on social media sites and other platforms trying to entice users to invest through the lure of an instant windfall.

Scammers can include images and fake claims from well-known celebrities to try to make the offer seem credible, but these are often done without the celebrity's knowledge or permission.

Be careful of potential scams when it comes to crypto-currencies. You should be wary of "initial coin offerings", which is a way of crowdfunding the launch of new currencies or companies. They are not regulated and could turn out to be scams, meaning the currency may not launch at all and your investment may be wiped out.

Also be very wary of getting involved in crypto-currencies where the main focus is on recruiting more people into the scheme, as this could in fact be a pyramid scheme and these are illegal.

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from these types of scams. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Research who is making the offer. Click through to the Facebook page behind the offer and see if it appears genuine by looking at things like when it was set up, background information and previous posts. Google the company and see if any reviews appear or any news articles talking about scams. See if this company has a legitimate website, office and contact number.

If you come across a scam post, let the social media site know so it can investigate.

  • Email your questions to or write to ‘Your Questions, Sunday Independent Business, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1’.
  • 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.

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