It’s not something we often think about (nor is it very festive), but a store’s returns policy is something that should be considered when buying gifts, according to the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland. After all, you might think that fragrance smells like sunshine and flowers, but your recipient might instead get hints of kerosene and gunpowder.
That warning comes on foot of a survey conducted by ECC Ireland, which highlighted a number of issues faced by Irish consumers buying online or over the border in Northern Ireland, including problems with returns, exchanges and refunds, as well as faulty items.
So, if you or your recipient is looking to return an item, particularly from an online vendor or in a different EU jurisdiction, what’s involved or what are you entitled to?
Change of mind
When you buy online, you’ve got a 14 (calendar) day cooling off period (with some exceptions) where you can cancel an order for any reason.
If you’ve bought in a bricks and mortar store, you’re not entitled to an automatic refund simply because you’ve changed your mind – the refund is at the store’s discretion. They may offer store credit or an exchange as a gesture of goodwill. Check the policy at the time of purchase, and ask for a gift receipt if returns are allowed.
If goods are not as described or faulty, consumer law comes into force, whether bought online or in person. Your rights are a free repair, replacement or refund. Issues that arise in the first six months are presumed to have been present at the time of purchase or delivery.
If you’ve received a gift that’s faulty, you may need to ask the gifter to return it or ask them for the receipt. Check if a guarantee or warranty is attached to the item – these are separate to your rights as a consumer but may be useful.
If you’ve purchased something in a sale, your consumer rights remain the same. The item should be fit for purpose, as described and of ‘merchantable quality’.
If a shop has a sign saying ‘no refund or exchange’ for sale items, this only applies to situations where you change your mind. If there’s a genuine issue with the product such as a fault, you are entitled to a repair, refund, or replacement.
Proof of purchase
Businesses are entitled to ask for proof that you purchased an item at their store. Receipts are an obvious example (don’t throw yours away), but you could also show a card statement or an invoice.
If you’re having difficulty in resolving an issue with an Irish retailer, contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission or have a look at their resources on making a complaint.
Making a Small Claim is another avenue – a relatively inexpensive and easy method of resolving a dispute, costing just €25 to file an application.
Or you could dispute a transaction with your card provider and request a reversal of the transaction, known as a chargeback.
For issues with retailers in other EU countries, contact ECC Ireland for more information and advice.