Before you buy online, check where the business is based
With the busiest shopping days of the year approaching, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has published its top tips for anyone who wants to bag a bargain in the run up to Christmas.
Whether your questions are about refunds, deliveries or faulty goods, it is good to know where you stand so that your online shopping doesn’t leave you out of pocket.
Here are some TOP TIPS from the CCPC ahead of Black Friday:
· Before you buy online, check where the business is based – this isn’t just important in terms of how long it will take for your purchase to arrive. Much more importantly, where the shop is based will determine your rights. If you buy from a store within the EU you have additional rights including the right, in most cases, to change your mind and get a refund. You also have rights if the delivery is late or doesn’t arrive at all.
· Be aware that getting a refund if you change your mind applies to most, but not all, purchases. If you buy online from a trader in the EU you have 14 days from the date that you receive your purchase to cancel the order and get a refund. However, there are some exceptions to this 14 day rule, for example, you cannot seek a refund for personalised or custom-made items, such as an item of clothing with a name on it, jewellery that has been engraved or furniture built to your exact specification. The business you’re buying the goods from should make it clear if a product is non-refundable.
· When buying outside of the EU, what should you watch out for? Aside from checking that the website is legitimate the most important step to take is to read the terms and conditions on the website. In particular, look out for information about their refund policy. And don’t forget if the company is based outside of the EU you will have to pay VAT if the value of the items plus shipping comes to €22 or more. VAT must be paid on imported items at the same rate that applies in Ireland for similar goods. And you also legally have to pay import charges such as customs or excise duties on items you buy from outside the EU which are valued at €150 or more.
· Your rights don’t change just because something is on sale. Whether you bought something online or in store or whether you pay full price or get it at a discount, if something is faulty you are entitled to a replacement, refund or repair. If you agree to accept a refund for a faulty item which is currently now on sale for a reduced price you should be given the full amount not the discounted price.
· If it’s too good to be true it probably is! At this time of the year there are great bargains on offer but if you see something significantly cheaper on a website than everywhere else, be wary. If you’re not sure if a site is selling genuine products, look for a list of authorised sellers. It is also hard to know if something is a good deal too, so for big purchases check a few different shops to see if the bargain you are looking at is good value.
Speaking about the CCPC's tips, Áine Carroll, Director of Communications and Policy at the CCPC, said: "Online shopping tends to be particularly popular around events such as the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
"And as a result at this time of the year in particular we see a significant increase in contacts from consumers who are having issues with purchases made online during this period.
"Almost 70% of the queries we receive about shopping online are about issues with deliveries and refunds, particularly with clothing and footwear."
Don’t forget your rights are the same on Black Friday and Cyber Monday as they are any other time of the year.
When you buy online from an EU-based business, there are protections which ensure that you have the opportunity to change your mind.
If you choose to buy online from a website based outside of the EU, such as the US or China, a different set of rules may apply and difficulties may arise if you need to seek redress.
Whether you're shopping online or in store this festive season people are encouraged to visit www.ccpc.ie, or call their helpline on 1890 432 432 or 01 402 5555 for more information about your rights.