Unwanted gift? Panic purchase? You have options

16th January 2019

What about the judgement-impaired purchase you made for yourself the morning after the Christmas party? Are you stuck with them?

The customary Christmas socks, that cheap (or possibly even faulty from the smell of it) perfume, the clothes that clearly could never again pass as fashion no matter how long you wait. Can you simply go back into the shop and exchange the gift, or get a refund? And are shop owners obliged to offer a refund?

Consumers

Return of a product

Unfortunately, you do not have any concrete rights of return under Irish consumer law, so do try to be sure before you buy. However, some shops do offer a refund or exchange within a certain time period, although this may be in the form of a credit note and not a cash refund.

As for the unwanted gifts, only where you can produce the receipt or gift receipt is the shop obliged to honour the exchange. But again, just remember, there is no legal requirement for shops to exchange unwanted gifts.

Company goes out of business

If you go to return something but the business has ceased trading, you will be treated as an ‘unsecured creditor’ and so although you in theory still have rights, you’ll be at the end of the queue, behind the ‘secured creditors’ such as the government for unpaid taxes, utilities, and employees who are owed wages.

Where the company changes ownership, the new owners may not necessarily have purchased the previous owner’s liabilities and so may not have to honour things such as gift vouchers.

Online Shopping

It’s the most effective way of shopping for so many these days, but what happens if you’ve received the wrong item, or after trying it on you don’t like it and want to return it? What can you do?

Well, if you have purchased the item from a business within the EU then you are protected by EU law. And if it’s within the first 14 calendar days since you received your purchase, you will be protected by the Consumer Rights Directive (a cooling-off period). If the company is outside the EU, unfortunately, this directive does not apply. So be sure you understand company’s refund policy.

Small Claims Court

If you are not satisfied with the response from a seller you may be able to take a claim to the Small Claims Court. Or if you made your purchase using a debit or credit card you may be able to get your bank or credit card company to reverse the transaction – this is called a ‘chargeback’. In that event you should contact your card provider as soon as possible.

Businesses

Online Selling

If your business is selling things online, ensure you’re up to date on your obligations under the Consumer Rights Directive, with particular reference to change of mind; returns; sale items; and clear and accurate information.

Anti-competitive behaviour

Be mindful of what constitutes anti-competitive behaviour. You should be particularly careful of things such as fixing prices, applying different conditions to certain business partners and abusing a dominant position, all of which featured in the CCPC’s annual report.

Returns Policy

Ensure you and all your staff are clear on your company policies and how you engage with customers in relation to the return of products. And put in place a robust compliance programme which will create a culture to ensure that everyone in the organisation is aware of their duties and obligations, to assist the business become more competitive – without compromise.

Who are the gate keepers?

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is an independent statutory body with a dual mandate to enforce consumer protection, and competition law, in Ireland.

The CCPC has a range of powers to ensure traders comply with consumer protection law, including prosecution, compliance notices, undertakings and prohibition orders. And they’re busy – in 2017 receiving over 1,745,724 visitors to their website, and an increase of 6% in people contacting them for help, compared to the previous year’s activity.

Where else can I find help?

For more information on your rights and obligations as either a consumer or trading business, get in contact with your DAS account manager who will be able to assist in advising how DAS can help.

Brendan Little is Head of Sales and Marketing at DAS Ireland

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