It can be easy to be confused about your consumer rights when you shop online and what exactly you are entitled to if things don’t go as planned. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s (CCPC) mythbuster can help clear things up:
I bought a shirt online from a French website but it was torn when it arrived. I have to pay the cost of returning it.
If you buy something from an EU website and it turns out to be faulty, you don’t have to pay for the cost of returning it. You have the same rights as if you had bought it in a shop.
Look for the information that came with your order – this should contain instructions on how to return your purchase, as well as information on the seller’s cancellation and returns policies. You should also read the terms and conditions on their website.
If you’ve bought something from a business that is based outside the EU, you will not be protected by EU law. So if you want to return a faulty item, the website's own returns and refunds policy will apply. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that you have read and understood the site’s returns policy before you buy.
The shoes I bought online are too big. I have no choice but to keep them.
When you buy online from an EU website, you are given a cooling-off period of 14 days. This means you have the right to cancel an order for any reason within this period, even if you just change your mind.
If it’s less than 14 days since you received the shoes, you will be covered by the cooling-off period and can notify the business in writing of your decision to return the goods and get a refund. However, if you are cancelling the order because you changed your mind, you may have to pay for the cost of returning it.
If you’ve bought something from a business outside the EU, you will not be protected by EU law. So if you want to return the item, the website's own returns and refunds policy will apply.
I have the same rights if I buy something from another individual online as I do from a business.
If you buy something from an individual through a website, consumer rights legislation does not apply. Items sold in an online auction where the seller is another consumer are not covered by consumer law, so you do not have a cooling-off period.
Marketplace websites usually take no responsibility for the quality of the items for sale, or accuracy of the listings. Always check the terms and conditions of the website before making a bid.
My rights are the same no matter what country the website I buy from is based in.
There is a big difference between buying online from a site based in the EU versus other parts of the world. You do not have the same level of protection if you buy from a website outside of the EU, so before you buy anything, try to find a physical address on the website to see where they are based.
Also make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully and check what their returns policy is.
For more information on your consumer rights when buying online, visit the CCPC’s consumer website www.consumerhelp.ie