The combination of bad weather and the recession have made this year’s sales really attractive for many with massive bargains to be had.

And as ever the eye-watering bargains can tempt us into making impulse purchases we may later regret.

So what are your rights?

Put simply, they are exactly the same as they are during normal trade.

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions put together with the help of the National Consumer Agency on shoppers’ rights:

Can I get cash back for faulty goods?

Yes you can. If the item turns out to be faulty the shop must offer you a refund, repair or a replacement. If the shop refuses to offer one of these, report them to the National Consumer Agency.

The shop is not obliged to give you cash, but most reputable stores are reasonable and will offer you cash back. 

Do I have to accept a credit note?

No - not even if the shop assistant insists that is their policy. So stand your ground. Tell them under the law you are not obliged to accept a credit note and if they refuse, report them to the National Consumer Agency. If the product is faulty, you are still entitled to a replacement, a repair or a full refund.

Can I return a piece of furniture because it wasn’t suitable for my living room when it was delivered?

This is a very common mistake made in big Christmas sales when substantial discounts are available on big-ticket items like sofas, beds and wardrobes. Unfortunately consumer rights don't cover issues of taste and unless there is something wrong with the item of furniture the vendor is not obliged to take it back.

But it is worth asking them and maybe they will exchange it for something of the same value. 

What if I lose the receipt?

Your consumer rights still apply. While the shop is entitled to see proof of purchase, this doesn't have to be a receipt. You can show them a bank statement or credit card statement. 

Can I return unwanted Christmas gifts? 

If the item was a gift which you would like to exchange, you will need the receipt or a gift receipt to take the goods back to the shop.

A gift receipt does not indicate the price of the item but, once passed to the recipient of the gift, the consumer rights also pass to them.

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'.

This may actually be illegal if they do not also say this does not affect your statutory rights. In other words, all your usual consumer rights apply regarding faulty goods or goods not fit-for-purpose in some way.

So the goods still have to be 'fit for intended purpose and merchandable and of saleable quality' - basically do what they say on the tin.

How do I know if the prices are really sale?

You don't, unless you have been in the shop a month before and noted the price. 

Shops are only allowed say an item is on 'sale' if the price represents a reduction on a price that was offered at least 28 days before. 

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.

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.

However if the voucher has been bought on a credit card or debit card, the store may be able to track it and establish that it hasn't been used. 

Is there an expiry date on gift vouchers?

In many cases no - book stores redeem book vouchers years after they were bought. Many will even accept IR£ vouchers bought before the euro was introduced. Department stores like Brown Thomas also have no expiry date but smaller shops may have expiry dates six months after purchase. So check when you receive the voucher to be absolutely certain. 

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