Unwanted gifts? Presents not delivered? Know all your consumer rights this festive season
The Christmas present shopping may be over - but the festive sales are already in full swing.
Getting what seems like a good bargain can sometimes cloud the buyer's better judgement but it's important to be aware of your consumer rights at all times.
With an array of issues such as non-delivery of presents and faulty items before, and on, the big day itself, how exactly are you protected? And can you return those unwanted gifts left neglected under the tree?
Paul Merriman of AskPaul.ie runs through the various scenarios that regularly rear their head during this time of year.
1) Changing your mind
Unfortunately, if you simply change your mind about something you bought, you don’t actually have any rights under consumer law.
"As a gesture of goodwill, some stores will offer to accept returns and give you an exchange or refund but only within a fixed time after the sale. This is a policy that varies from store to store and is definitely not a legal requirement," Merriman said.
2) Unwanted gifts
"When Christmas Day is over, there’s a good chance we’ve all be on the receiving end of at least one well-intentioned, but ultimately unwanted, gift this year," said Merriman, "but before you go marching into the store to demand the money back and huff and puff about consumer rights, take a step back. You have no automatic right to your money back".
Although some stores may exchange an item if you received it as a gift and want to exchange it for something else, he said, you will need to have a gift receipt from the person who gave it to you.
"Yet again, there is no legal requirement for the store to exchange unwanted gifts".
3) Non-delivery of goods
This comes down to timing agreed at the point of sale, and where the business you purchased the products from are located, according to Merriman.
"If you have bought something for a EU-based business and your goods weren’t delivered, you should notify the business. Unless you have agreed to a shorter delivery timeframe with the business, before you entered into a contract, your purchase should be delivered within 30 days of the date of purchase," he said.
"If the item has not been delivered with the agreed timeframe, you should contact the business and re-arrange an alternative, convenient delivery date.
"If the item still has not arrived within this revised timeframe, you can cancel your order because the business is not keeping to their side of the contract. At this time, you should receive a full refund (including delivery costs) without delay."
4) Faulty goods
If your product appears broken or faulty in any way, stop using it immediately! Then you can reject the goods and get an immediate refund from the seller, said Merriman.
"If, however, you start using the item, it is deemed that you have accepted the item. If you then discover a fault, then you are entitled to have the item repaired or replaced free of charge – once you didn’t cause the damage.
"Also if the fault occurs within the first six months of owning the item, it is accepted that the fault was there when you bought it. Generally, the seller can offer to repair the item first but this must be a permanent repair so that the issue does not re-occur. If the fault does happen again, then you should be entitled to a replacement or refund."
You are within your rights to refuse the retailer’s offer to repair the item but you may have to go through the Small Claims process to take the matter further.
Also, if the product is beyond repair - and it's easier to replace rather than repair, that could be an option.
"For example, in the case of a laptop – if it overheats during use, it will be easier for the seller to replace the laptop than to get it fixed for you. If you opt for the replacement, if should be the same as the original item or of similar quality and price. If the replacement costs less than the original you should be given the difference.
"In the rare situation where an item has been repaired/replaced and the specification has been reduced as a result, e.g. if you bought a bicycle with 21 gears which develops a fault and needs to be repaired and afterwards it only has 18 working gears, then you could look for a reduction to the price that you paid for it."
Remember, when you buy something online, over the phone, from a mail order catalogue or even a TV shopping channel, and your purchase turns out to be faulty, your consumer rights are exactly the same as if you bought it in a shop.
Paul Merriman is a Certified Financial Planner, Founder of Askpaul.ie and CEO of Pax Asset Management and ClearChoice, compliance support for financial brokers.