Now more than ever people are shopping online, the growth in this sector has soared since COVID-19 and people are turning to their phones and computers to do their shopping in order to avoid the Christmas queues and stay safe. With more businesses than ever now with an online presence it is making it easier to shop online for the things we want.
So what are our rights, and how are we protected?
Some shoppers may be concerned that we do not have the same consumer rights when buying online as we do when shopping in store, but this is not the case at all. In fact, we have even greater rights when buying online within the EU. Since June 2014, Irish online shoppers are protected by the European Directive on consumer rights (Directive 2011/83/EU). Please be mindful though, these regulations do not apply in certain circumstances such as buying from another consumer, if you buy from a business outside the EU or when you buy certain goods or services, such as digital products. Extra care needs to be taken when making these types of online purchases.
It is important to remember however that from the 31st December 2020, the UK will no longer be part of the EU and therefore shopping from websites such as Amazon, Asos and other websites will change. It is important to check before making a purchase from a website where the company is based. If you are buying from a Country within the EU then you are protected by the European Directive. If you are buying from a non EU Country then any purchase you make over €22 or more (which includes shipping costs) will be subject to Value Added Tax (VAT). Any items valued at €150 or over will also be subject to customs and excise duty. Therefore it is important to ask the question before you buy “what will this cost me”.
Your Christmas party outfit never arrived or the item has been delayed due to COVID-19, what can you do?
Items you purchase online should be delivered within 30 days unless a specific alternative date is given. For example, if a website says delivery will be within 3-5 days, and your items are not delivered within that time, you can either arrange a new delivery date or cancel your order and receive a full refund. If you cannot get a refund for undelivered goods then you can contact your credit or debit card provider who may reverse the transaction on your behalf.
Changed your mind about a particular Christmas gift you’ve ordered?
Under EU law, there is a 14 day “cooling off period” meaning that you can cancel an online purchase for any reason within 14 days, and receive a full refund. The goods must be returned within 14 days from cancellation. Your refund should also be processed not later than 14 days after you cancelled your order. Unfortunately, not all orders are covered by the cooling off period. For instance, hotel bookings, car rental, travel tickets, customised goods are excluded from this provision.
Did you know that you are entitled to a refund of postage costs?
If you choose to return an item, you have a right to a refund of the standard delivery cost you paid when you made your order. This even applies to a change of mind. You may have to pay for the cost of returning the item to the company, but they must refund you the original delivery cost that you paid, once they receive your return.
Bought something you now regret during the Black Friday sales, what are your rights?
Your rights are still the same. When buying online within the EU, it doesn’t make any difference if it was on sale. Remember when you buy online you can avail of the 14-day cancellation period even on sale items.
Buying from an individual online rather than a company, you are not protected!
Be careful to distinguish between buying from an individual on auctions sites like eBay, and buying from a company. If you buy from an individual the transaction will not be governed by consumer law, and no cooling off period applies.
What happens if the item you bought is faulty?
Well this will depend on whether the fault is a major problem for example a fitness tracker that does not switch on or a minor fault for example the watch has a small scratch. In the case of the fitness tracker not working you are entitled to reject it and get a full refund. In the case of a minor fault you are entitled to have the item repaired or replaced free of charge providing that you did not cause the damage yourself. If the fault happens again then you should be entitled to a refund. The advice is to act as soon as you become aware of the defect. If the business refuses to assist you in replacing or refunding you for the item then you should write to them outlining your concerns. Alternatively you can speak to us and we will be happy to assist in writing to the business or your behalf in order to try and resolve the matter.
*Before acting or refraining from acting on anything in this article, legal advice should be sought from a Solicitor.
**In contentious cases, a Solicitor may not charge fees or expenses as a portion or percentage of any award of settlement.