Shopping online this Christmas – make sure you know your rights!

by Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on November 11, 2015 in Libraries

Irish adults spend an estimated €2.4bn online each year; many consider buying online a “cheaper and more convenient option” (1). The European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Ireland has been working with the EU in developing a comprehensive range of consumer protections designed to safeguard consumer rights when purchasing online. The European Consumer Cenrre Ireland has […]

Irish adults spend an estimated €2.4bn online each year; many consider buying online a “cheaper and more convenient option” (1). The European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Ireland has been working with the EU in developing a comprehensive range of consumer protections designed to safeguard consumer rights when purchasing online. The European Consumer Cenrre Ireland has developed advice tips for safe online shopping.

Tips for safe online shopping

Do your research!

  • Check that trader supplies full contact details
  • Verify these details with additional internet searches – certain websites (e.g. domaintools.com) allow consumers to check where and when a website was registered. Useful in determining whether a trader is based within EU
  • Internet searches may also turn up any negative feedback left by other consumers about the trader

Use a secure method of payment

  • Credit card or services such as Paypal provide additional protection if something goes wrong
  • Possible to seek chargeback or refund from card company/Paypal
  • Never send payment by bank or money transfer – can’t be traced!

Ensure website is secure

  • Check that web address begins with https:// – this indicates a secure connection
  • Click on website’s security certificate to verify that it is up to date
  • Ensure your computer’s anti-virus settings/firewall are up to date

Avoid buying counterfeit items

  • Sale of counterfeit goods is illegal – in some EU countries, purchase is also outlawed
  • Where buying designer/brand goods, check with brand or company directly to see if trader is a verified seller

Read the small print

  • Always check the trader’s terms and conditions before purchasing
  • Pay particular attention to terms relating to delivery, payment, and cancellation rights

Shop with EU/EEA traders where possible

  • EU consumer protections do not apply outside of EU Member States and certain EEA states (Iceland and Norway)

Items purchased outside EU may be subject to additional tax and customs charges

For anyone shopping online it is important to be aware of your consumer rights

The right to clear information

Under EU law, traders are obliged to provide full contact details on their websites, including a geographical address. Traders are also obliged to provide certain information about the goods/services offered before the consumer makes a purchase. Such information includes the main characteristics of the good/service, the full price including taxes and delivery costs, information on how the goods will be delivered, and details of how to cancel – including the right to rely on the cooling-off period. Where this information is not provided, consumers may be entitled to redress from the trader.

You have the right to change your mind

EU legislation provides for a “cooling off” period or right of withdrawal whereby a consumer can opt out of an online purchase within 14 days of receiving the item. The consumer does not have to give a reason for returning the item and can avail of a full refund, which must be provided within 14 days once the consumer has informed the trader of their intention to withdraw from the contract. However, consumers should bear in mind that they may be required to cover the cost of returning the item to the trader.

Following the entry into force of the Consumer Rights Directive earlier this year, the cooling-off period has been extended to digital purchases. Consumers may opt to withdraw from a digital purchase, such as an ebook or music file, and seek a full refund. However, it is important to note that purchasers of digital content may only avail of the cooling-off period up to the moment they consent to the beginning of the actual downloading process. Once consumers have consented to the downloading of the content, they cannot seek to withdraw from the contract.

The right to be refunded in case of delayed or non-delivery of goods

Unless otherwise agreed with the consumer, the trader is obliged to dispatch an online order within 30 days of the order being placed. If the goods are not delivered within 30 days or an alternate time period agreed with the consumer, the consumer may request delivery within an additional period of time appropriate to the circumstances. If the trader fails to deliver the goods within this period, the consumer may seek a full refund.

The consumer is not required to request delivery within an additional period of time if delivery during the initial period agreed with the trader was essential, taking into account all the circumstances of the case and the information exchanged between consumer and trader at the time the contract was concluded. In such a situation, the consumer may request a refund where the item has not been delivered within the initially agreed period. As an example, if a wedding dress is ordered online and an essential delivery date is indicated but the dress does not arrive by that time, the consumer may seek a refund from the trader.

The right to redress in the case of faulty or defective goods

Consumers are entitled to receive an item which is in conformity with the contract of sale. Generally, an item will be deemed to conform to the contract of sale where it is as described, in good working order, and fit for its normal purpose. If this is not the case, the consumer may seek a repair or replacement from the seller. This must be provided free of charge and within a reasonable time. If the repair or replacement cannot be provided or turns out to be unsatisfactory, the consumer may request that the contract be rescinded and a full refund provided, unless the lack of conformity is minor.

The trader remains liable to the consumer for any defects that become apparent within at least two years of the item being delivered. However, if the fault arises more than six months after delivery, the trader may request evidence from the consumer that the fault or defect did not arise as a result of misuse.

For more information and tips on safe online shopping, see ECC Ireland’ website http://www.eccireland.ie/, drop into the Europe Direct Information Centre Blanchardstown Library

(1) Parcel Motel and Web-loyalty e-commerce research (October /November 2014)

Additional Information:

The right to change your mind

  • “Cooling off” period or right of withdrawal
  • Right to change your mind about a purchase and return it without having to give reasons
  • Valid for 14 days from receipt of item
  • Only cost to consumer is direct cost of returning the goods
  • Consumer must be refunded within 14 days of communicating decision to withdraw to trader
  • As of June 2014, right applies to digital content also – e.g. ebooks, music files
  • Exceptions: personalised goods, financial products, hotel bookings, travel tickets, car rentals, etc.
  • Source: EU Directive 2011/83 on consumer rights, replacing EU Directive 1997/7 on distance contracts
  • European Consumer Centre Ireland

The right to clear information

  • Traders must provide certain key info on their website
  • Full contact details, including a geographical address
  • Information on products/services offered
  • Main characteristics
  • Full price, including any applicable tax and delivery charges
  • Information on how the goods will be delivered
  • Details of how to cancel
  • As of June 2014, traders also obliged to clearly inform consumers about the cooling-off period
  • Source: EU Directive 2011/83 on consumer rights, replacing EU Directive 1997/7 on distance contracts

The right to a refund where goods are not delivered or delivery is delayed

  • Online order must be dispatched within 30 days, unless otherwise agreed
  • If goods not delivered within 30 days, consumers may request delivery within an additional period of time “appropriate to circumstances”
  • If goods remain undelivered, consumers may seek a refund
  • Consumers not required to request delivery within an additional period of time if delivery during initial 30-day period was “essential”
  • For instance, if a wedding dress is ordered and the consumer clearly indicates the date by which it must be delivered but the item fails to arrive, the consumer may seek a refund
  • Source: EU Directive 2011/83 on consumer rights, replacing EU Directive 1997/7 on distance contracts

The right to redress where goods are faulty/defective/not as described

  • Items must be “in conformity” with contract of sale
  • As described
  • Fit for purpose
  • In good working order
  • Where items are not in conformity, consumer may first seek a repair or replacement – which must be provided free of charge
  • If repair/replacement cannot be provided or is unsatisfactory, consumers may request full refund (to be provided within 30 days)
  • In Ireland, traders remain liable to consumers for up to six years – however, if fault occurs more than six months after delivery, trader may request evidence that fault did not arise from misuse

Source: EU Directive 1999/44 on the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantee

Other consumer rights (as of June 2014)

Ban on surcharges

  • Traders may not charge card fees that exceed the actual cost of processing debit/credit card transaction
  • If trader operates a phone line, the consumer may only be charged basic rate for calls – premium charges are no longer permitted

Ban on pre-ticked boxes

  • If trader offers additional services (e.g. an airline offering travel insurance or car rental services), consumers must explicitly opt in to these services by ticking appropriate box
  • Traders no longer permitted to pre-tick boxes
  • Source: EU Directive 2011/83 on consumer rights

ECC-Net

  • ECC Ireland part of European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net)
  • Offices in all 28 EU Member States, Iceland, and Norway
  • In 2013, ECC Ireland secured refunds totalling almost €81,000 for consumers
  • Advice is free and confidential
  • No enforcement or sanctioning powers

ECC Ireland, MACRO Building, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7

info@eccireland.ie (01) 8797 620 @eccireland

By Susan Lovatt, Europe Direct Blanchardstown

Europe Direct Information Centre is based in the Reference Section of Blanchardstown Library