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Consumer Champion: Thoughts turning to sales already? Make sure you know your rights as a customer


Shoppers look for Christmas gifts

Shoppers look for Christmas gifts

Shoppers look for Christmas gifts

It’s not even Christmas Day yet, but canny shoppers have their eye on another event: the sales.

This year, perhaps due to the fragile recovery in the economy, not as many shops had pre-Christmas purging of stock, so we can only hope that the reductions on offer will be better than ever.

With Christmas falling on Thursday, most stores are reopening in jig time on Friday, St Stephen’s Day (see table).

Sales will be as frantic as ever, so there will be very little time to get over that hangover and head into town.

Although it’s always great when you bag a bargain and use up those vouchers, many people continue to think that their rights are somehow lessened at sale time. This is not the case.


Your statutory (legal) consumer rights are enshrined in the Sale of Goods and Services Act 1980 which states that irrespective of what you pay, discounted or otherwise, if a good is damaged, faulty or not as described you have a right to return it for a refund, replacement or repair.

The manufacturer gets to decide if they want to give repair a go first (often the case for electrical goods and mobile phones), but when buying clothing you will be able to insist on a replacement item or your money back.

The only exception is where the item has been clearly marked “as seen” or “shop-soiled” so you knowingly took the risk when buying it.

You may be asked for proof of purchase. This does not mean you must produce the receipt. A bank statement showing the transaction is sufficient. A gift receipt is perfect, if one was provided. This also shows the store is willing to take returns.


You do not have the right to return an undamaged item simply because you change your mind.

Granny might have thought that reindeer jumper was the last word in fashion, but you hate it. The shop can refuse to take it back (and probably will), or for goodwill reasons may offer you a credit note instead for either full or sale price. Take it with grateful thanks.


All kinds of qualifying signs go up in shops during sale time. Here’s what the law says:

No refund or exchange during Sale. This must be accompanied by “Your statutory rights are not affected”. It means you can return damaged goods, but the shop is not taking back change-of-mind items.

Sale price. The ticket must show the original price too, which must have been on sale for at least 28 days before the discount was applied.

50pc off. A ‘reasonable’ amount of stock must be available at the discount offered, not just one item.

If you are charged a different price at the till, you are entitled to the lower one, unless the store can show that the item was, say, misplaced on a rail or hanger and the rest of the same stock is at a higher price.


Annoyingly, some stores still apply a time limit on vouchers – it’s not illegal, but please check.

In any event, use them up quickly – if a shop goes into liquidation, you’re stuffed. Make sure vouchers can be used in all branches of a chain – some are limited to one store, which is also annoying.

See www.consumerhelp.ie for your rights.

WHEN THEY START: Christmas Sales

Arnotts 26 December 9am

Brown Thomas 26 December 9am

Clerys 26 December 8am

Dunnes Stores 27 December 10am

Marks & Spencer 26 December 10am

Debenhams 26 December 9am


Avoid falling foul of festive food poisoning

Nobody wants to be ill at Christmas, but with so much food around the house and the diet gone to pot, it’s easy to let standards slip.

Bacteria can be harboured in poorly kept and prepared food, so now is the time to make sure you don’t become a casualty of an un-festive bout of food poisoning.

I took some tips from Safefood (www.safefood.eu), which incidentally has a great list of recipes for leftovers to check out with videos from the always reassuring Neven Maguire.

* Clean out your fridge now, with warm soapy water and re-jig the shelving for storing big items such as ham, turkey and all those nice desserts.  

* Chuck out anything past its use-by date. Root vegetables and many drinks can safely be stored in a cool area rather than the fridge (if you have a utility room, it’s ideal).

* Make sure raw meats are stored near the bottom to avoiding blood dripping on to lower shelves. Always wash your hands after handling.

* If using frozen turkey, bear in mind it can take up to three days to defrost a 15lb bird. A rough guide is around 24 hours per 5lbs, so give it plenty of time.

* Never wash the turkey – cooking will destroy all germs. Wipe with kitchen paper if you must, and singe feathers off if necessary.

*  Cover and refrigerate leftover meat within two hours of cooking (chopping it up will help cool it faster). Only reheat it once and use it in any event within three days.

Handy app will let you save cash at the pumps

Motorists will have noticed a welcome drop in the price of petrol lately – it’s because the price of oil has decreased some 30pc since its summer peak.

While this is all well and good, the fact remains that most of the cost of petrol is soaked up in taxes which are hugely lucrative to the Government.

A litre of petrol, tax-free, costs around 60c, according to AA Ireland.

But pump prices are around €1.36. The retailer makes only around 3c a litre. Excise duty is a fixed amount per litre, rather than a percentage, so it doesn’t drop as the petrol does. There are three other taxes piled on: carbon tax, the NORA levy and VAT. We might just as well shovel euros into our tanks.

While it’s obviously silly to drive around looking for cheaper petrol, do use the www.pumps.ie app for updated prices for any area to at least get the best value.