Great value, variety and convenience are just some of very many reasons why we choose to shop online.    With Christmas around the corner, and increasing Black Friday sales, it is now even a more popular time than ever to shop online.

So what are our rights, and how are we protected?

Some shoppers may be concerned that we do not have the same consumer rights when buying online as we do when shopping in store, but this is not the case at all.  In fact, we have even greater rights when buying online within the EU.  Since June 2014, Irish online shoppers are protected by the European Directive on consumer rights (Directive 2011/83/EU). Please be mindful though, these regulations do not apply in certain circumstances such as buying from another consumer, if you buy from a business outside the EU or when you buy certain goods or services, such as digital products. Extra care needs to be taken when making these types of online purchases.

Ornagh Burke, Solicitor of Carter Anhold & Co., will explain further and what you need to know before making your online Christmas purchases.

Your Christmas party outfit never arrived, what can you do?

Items you purchase online should be delivered within 30 days unless a specific alternative date is given. For example, if a website says delivery will be within 3-5 days, and your items are not delivered within that time, you can either arrange a new delivery date or cancel your order and receive a full refund.

Changed your mind about a particular Christmas gift you’ve ordered?

Under EU law, there is a 14 day “cooling off period” meaning that you can cancel an online purchase for any reason within 14 days, and receive a full refund. The goods must be returned within 14 days from cancellation. Your refund should also be processed not later than 14 days after you cancelled your order. Unfortunately, not all orders are covered by the cooling of period.  For instance, hotel bookings, car rental, travel tickets, customised goods are excluded from this provision.

Did you know that you are entitled to a refund of postage costs?

If you choose to return an item, you have a right to a refund of the standard delivery cost you paid when you made your order.  This even applies to a change of mind.  You may have to pay for the cost of returning the item to the company, but they must refund you the original delivery cost that you paid, once they receive your return.

Bought something you now regret during the Black Friday sales, what are your rights?

Your rights are still the same.  When buying online within the EU, it doesn’t make any difference if it was on sale.  Remember when you buy online you can avail of the 14-day cancellation period even on sale items.

Beware of hidden taxes when hopping outside the EU.

In the EU a business must provide you with full details regarding total costs. There is no obligation on companies outside of the EU to give you this information.  If the value of your item plus shipping is more than €22.00, you may have to pay VAT on delivery, and discharge import charges on goods valued at €150.00 or more.

Buying from an individual online rather than a company, you are not protected!

Be careful to distinguish between buying from an individual on auctions sites like eBay, and buying from a company.  If you buy from an individual the transaction will not be governed by consumer law, and no cooling off period applies.

Buying from outside the EU, and Brexit.

If the online seller is not located within the EU, unfortunately you will not be able to rely on the Consumer Rights Directive or EU Legislation. It is important to be made aware that EU consumer law will not apply in the UK after it leaves the EU.  As mentioned earlier, if buying from companies outside the EU, you may have to pay certain taxes and duties.  This will apply to the UK too following Brexit.

Having trouble returning your order or getting a refund, who can help?

If you bought from a website located in the EU and are experiencing difficulties, you can contact the European Consumer Centre in Dublin.  Their service is free of charge and they can be contacted by email at eccnet-ie@ec.europa.eu. If the dispute is with an Irish company, you can contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission for further information.

Alternatively, you can contact your bank and make a request to reverse the transaction on your debit or credit card.  This is known as the chargeback process, and can be used when goods are not delivered, are faulty or the company is no longer in business.

If you would like to know more information on your consumer rights please contact our office on 071 9162211 and we would be delighted to assist with any queries.