Your questions answered: Should concrete firm pay for poor work?
Q My husband and I got concrete work done at the back of our house late last year. We have now discovered that it is 'popping' and so small holes have appeared across the concrete. The concrete itself cost €8,000. With labour and materials, the total cost was approximately €15,000. We have been in contact with the company which supplied the concrete, but no satisfactory outcome has been reached yet. We are just wondering what recourse we have? Is it reasonable to suggest that the concrete company foot the bill for the digging up, disposal and laying of new concrete? Elizabeth, Cork City
A If you hire a tradesman or company to carry out a service for you, by law, it is required to do it with proper care and attention. It should have the appropriate skills to do the work. Any materials it uses should be fit for purpose and of acceptable quality. If you are unhappy with the work, or feel that it didn't provide a proper service with proper care, used poor quality materials, or didn't complete the job as agreed, you are entitled to have it sort out the problem by negotiating with it to either fix it, or to fully or partially refund you the money you paid for the work.
If you haven't already done so, you should complain to the company in writing setting out the issue and how you want it resolved.
You can find template complaint letters and more information on ccpc.ie. Unfortunately, as the job cost more than €2,000, you cannot use the Small Claims process so if you still don't get a satisfactory response from the company, you may have to seek legal advice on the options available to you after that.
If you think the company caused any structural damage, and if it is registered, accepts responsibility, and has insurance, you may be able to claim for the damage on the company's insurance policy. Another option might be to claim on your home insurance. Every policy is different and you should speak to your insurance company to find out more about making a claim. Bear in mind that if you do claim on your house insurance, you may have to pay an excess (the first part of a claim you pay yourself) and claiming is also likely to increase your premium when you renew.
Stagger back-to-school bill
Q I am planning to stagger my back-to-school spending on uniforms, books and other essentials over July and August to see if this makes the costs more manageable. Is there any advice you can offer to help reduce these costs? I have two kids in primary and one starting secondary and I know it is going to be a really expensive time. Linda, Templeogue, Dublin 6W
A Many shops start their summer sales before the school term ends so you can definitely get bargains if you plan ahead. Keep an eye out for special promotions in shops, such as three-for-two offers on shirts and polo shirts and so on. Uniforms can be one of the biggest back-to-school expenses. Ask your school or other parents to see if there is a second-hand uniform sale planned. Some websites or local groups on social media sites also sell second-hand uniforms.
Buy some items for September 2018 on - and some in a larger size for later in the year. Shop around for generic items of clothing such as skirts, trousers and jumpers.
School books can also significantly eat into your budget, so consider buying second-hand. If your child is attending a secondary school that requires an iPad for accessing school books, you will need to factor the upfront cost of the device into your budget. Some schoolbook websites sell second-hand books as well as new ones and if you're on social media you could post your child's booklist to see if your friends have any of the books you need. Should you have to buy new books, compare prices in bookshops and online. Some websites have additional offers such as free delivery or book covering included - or may offer discounts if you place your order early.
Buying stationery in bulk can be cheaper than buying items one by one. There are usually good offers at back-to-school time, such as bundles of copybooks, pens and notebooks, so, if you can afford it, it might be worth buying stocks to keep your kids going for the year. If not, stationery items could be bought week by week.
Finally, after-school activities can often eat into your budget. Many schools have some activities that are free as they are run by teachers so find out what these are and if they are of interest to your children. Ask family and friends if they can pass on any sports equipment or supplies that they don't need. Children often change their minds about a sport or hobby, so ask if they can attend the first class for free before paying the full fee. Hold off on buying expensive gear and equipment until you know if your child is going to stick with the activity.
Is firm right on returns?
Q I recently bought a hair dryer online from an EU website. A courier delivered the hairdryer and I took it out of the packaging to examine it but I didn't use it and I still kept all the packaging. I then decided I did not want the hairdryer but when I contacted the company to cancel, I was told there were no right to cancel because I opened all the plastic packaging and wrapping. This is listed on the business's website as part of its terms and conditions and according to the business I am bound by those conditions - is this correct? Mary, Roscommon Town
A You have strong protections when you shop online from a business based in the EU.
When you shop online, you are buying from a distance. So, unlike in a shop where you can see the item before you buy it, when you buy online and the item arrives, it may not be what you thought or you may not be happy with the quality or how it works.
These rights give you the flexibility to examine what you have bought and return it if you wish.
You can cancel an online order from the moment you place the order - up to 14 days after you receive it. This means you have the right to cancel an order for any reason within this period and to get a full refund including any standard delivery costs you may have paid.
You are allowed to examine the goods to see how they perform. In your case, you would need to remove the packaging from the hairdryer to examine it and to make sure you are happy with how it works. Removing the packaging is not grounds for you to lose your right to cancel.
When you ordered the hairdryer, the business should have given you a cancellation form or an email address to cancel. If you are unsure, check the business's process for returning items - this is usually outlined in its returns policy.
Then following these steps, cancel your order, remind the business of its obligations under EU law and request a full refund.
If the business still refuses to give you a refund after you have returned the hairdryer, you can request a chargeback (a reversal of the transaction on your debit or credit card) from your card provider.
If you cancel the order because you change your mind, you may have to pay for the cost of returning the item so check the business's terms and conditions. If these terms and conditions don't state who pays for returns, the business must cover this cost.
Aine Carroll is director of communications and market insights at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (ccpc.ie)
Sunday Indo Business