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Knowing Your Rights When Returning Goods After Christmas With Tina Leonard

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Tina is in studio today to answer viewer's questions about faulty gifts they received, returning unwanted gifts, queries about gift vouchers and any other shopping related queries. The questions can vary from gifts bought online, in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

Tina will be answering during the show and following that Tina will be available for a web chat after the show.

Tina Leonard - Consumer Expert
Tina will speak to us about the four main areas that affect us when returning goods.

The law only entitles you to return an item if it is broken or not as described. You are not legally entitled to return something if you don't like it or it doesn't fit. However, most stores do have a returns policy, the detail of which (i.e. number of days, whether you can get a refund or a credit note etc.) is entirely up to the shop. This goes for both sales and non-sales periods, so when making a purchase, always ask what the store's returns policy is.

What if the product turns out to be faulty?
Your consumer rights are exactly the same in the sales as at any other time of year. If the item turns out to be faulty, the shop must offer you a refund, repair or replacement. If the shop refuses to give you at least one of these three options, report it to the National Consumer Agency.

What is the refund if I bought it before the sales?
The refund price is the price you paid at the time - not the price in the sales.
If you bought a product before the sales and it turns out to be faulty, the shop may offer you a refund (rather than a repair or replacement). If it does offer a refund, this has to be at the original price you paid - not the sale price if the same type of product now happens to be in the sale. Remember to show your receipt as proof of what you paid.

What if I lose the receipt?
Your consumer rights still apply. While the shop is entitled to see proof of purchase, they may accept a credit card bill or a bank statement rather than your receipt.

What if they have 'no exchange' signs?
Some shops put up these type of signs during the sales, along the lines of "No money refunded", "No refunds during sales", "No exchange" or "No liability accepted for faulty goods". These signs can give the impression that you don't have certain consumer rights. So the shop may be committing an offence in using them, and it could face prosecution.

What if I just change my mind?
You are not entitled to an exchange (or a refund or a credit note) simply because you change your mind about something you've bought in a shop, whether this is during the sales or at any other time of the year. So double-check the shop's refund policy before buying anything. Some shops do allow you to exchange goods that you've had second thoughts about, but remember that it is at their discretion and a goodwill gesture.

Do I have to accept a credit note?
No, not even if the shop assistant insists that is their policy. If the product is faulty, you are still entitled to a replacement, a repair or a full refund.

What about 'seconds'?
If the shop describes the goods as seconds or shop-soiled, this means they are not perfect. In this case you cannot expect the same standard as new goods.
So always check for any major flaws. Be careful of buying goods that are on sale because they are damaged or defective. The shop must have a clear sign on or next to the goods explaining that they are damaged.

Do be aware that often a store's exchange policy will change during a sale, for example, they might shorten the number of days in which you can return the item or they might not let you do so at all. This is fine as long as your 'statutory rights are not affected'. In other words if something doesn't work 'as described' or is faulty, you can still bring it back.

All prices are required by law to be displayed on or near the product, and must be in Euro. Sterling or other currencies can be there too as long as Euro is also present. The pre-sale price should also be displayed so that you are aware what the discount is.

Are the prices really reduced?
If the shop says the products have a reduced price in the sale, they should have had these products on offer at the advertised original price for at least a month before the price was reduced. For example, a shop is not allowed to have a sign or label on a product saying "reduced by 20 per cent" if this is the first time that it is selling this particular product.

The most important thing about gift vouchers is their expiry date. Make sure to ask the sales assistant what the expiry date is, and if it is not written on the voucher, write it on yourself so that the person you give the voucher to will know. A gift voucher is like money so whether you are using it in a sale or non-sale, it doesn't make any difference. You can check the validity dates on vouchers from various Irish stores at:

If I partially use a gift voucher, do they have to give me the rest in change?
Not necessarily. You only have the right to get change if the voucher's terms specifically state that change will be given. It is up to you to use the voucher's full value. But some shops will give you a new voucher as change (if the amount exceeds €5), or will give cash change if it is under €5.

What do I do if I lose a gift voucher?
The shop doesn't have to replace it. Losing a gift voucher is almost like losing a bus ticket - or like losing cash - so always keep it somewhere safe. But if the voucher was made out to you specifically and is not transferable to another person, the shop may be bound to issue you a new one and cancel the original voucher. Check the terms and conditions.

The shop says the gift voucher is past its expiry date - what do I do?
This can be a major problem for consumers. Some gift vouchers have expiry dates of as little as six months. So whether or not you intend using gift vouchers to buy things in the sales, always watch out for their expiry dates.

Online Purchases
If you ordered gifts online and they haven't arrived yet, ask yourself the following: did the seller guarantee a pre-Christmas delivery; is it over 30 days since the order was made? If you can answer yes to either of these questions then if the items don't appear you are entitled to cancel the contract, get your money back and rush to the shops to buy something else. If on the other hand the seller didn't guarantee any delivery time, there is nothing much you can do except wait.

When you buy something online you do have a 7 day 'cooling-off' period where you can return an item and get a refund for any reason. This does not change if you buy the item on sale so this is an added bonus if buying online now.

Unwanted Gifts
Age Action is urging the public to turn their unwanted festive gifts into funds to help some of Ireland's most needy older people.
"Instead of leaving them in a drawer, donate them to Age Action and let us sell them in our charity shops.This will provide us with much needed funding to continue and expand our work improving the quality of life of older people across Ireland" Age Action representative.
Unwanted gifts can be dropped in at the shops in Camden Street, Dublin, Dunlaoghaire, Monaghan, Castlebar or Upper Abbeygate Street, Galway.

For More Information

Tina Leonard