Your consumer rights
When you buy a product or a service, you have strong rights under Irish and EU legislation.
These laws aim to:
- Increase consumer confidence by giving you strong rights when you buy in a shop or online
- Make sure you get enough information to make a buying decision based on facts
- Make sure there are redress options if things go wrong
By law, sellers or suppliers (known as ‘traders’) must treat you fairly, for example, by making sure products and services are safe and of a high standard.
Recent changes to consumer law
The Consumer Rights Act 2022 became law on 29 November 2022. It simplifies and updates consumer protection laws.
The Act introduces new protections, including:
- New rights for digital content contracts
- New rights for services contracts
- A right to agree a price reduction on faulty products or services
- A ‘black list’ of contract terms that are always unfair
- A ban on certain aggressive commercial practices, including fake reviews
- New enforcement powers for the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to ensure your consumer rights are upheld
You can read more about the Consumer Rights Act and what it means for you on the CCPC website.
Who are consumers?
Irish and EU consumer laws only apply to transactions between a consumer and a trader.
A consumer is someone who buys goods or services for their own personal use.
A trader is a person who sells goods or services as a business, trade or profession.
Irish and EU consumer law does not apply when you buy from:
- A private individual who is not a trader. For example, someone who is selling their own car to you but they do not sell cars as a profession.
- A seller based outside the EU or European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein).
Types of consumer contracts
When you buy goods, services and digital content, you make a contract with the seller. As parties to the agreement, both you and the seller have certain legal rights and obligations.
The main types of consumer contracts are:
- Sales contracts and online sales contracts
- Contracts for services
- Digital content services or contracts
Contracts can be made verbally, in writing, or by your conduct (for example, a silent contract where you pay for a good at a self-service supermarket checkout).
There are certain parts of a contract that businesses are free to set (for example the price of a good or the how a service is to be performed). However, these terms must not go against your consumer rights.
What you can expect from your product or service
When you buy products, services or digital content or services they must be ‘in conformity with the contract’. In conformity means the product or service is as you expect it would be according to the contract you made with the seller. To be in conformity, the products must meet certain conditions of quality, performance and durability.
You are entitled to certain remedies, when something you buy does not meet the conditions or standards. A remedy could be a repair, replacement, refund or a price reduction .
Right to information
Under consumer law, you have a right to certain information before you buy.
The information you must get depends on whether you bought in a physical shop, on your doorstep or online.
|Key information you must get||Where you bought|
|In store||At your door||Online|
|Seller’s business name, address, phone number||Y||Y||Y|
|Seller’s email, other communication channels||Y||Y|
|Product or service details||Y||Y||Y|
|Total price or how it will be calculated||Y||Y||Y|
|Personalised price (if relevant)||Y||Y|
|Length of the contract||Y||Y|
|Details on payment and performance||Y||Y|
|Cost for each billing period or each month for services with no fixed length||Y||Y|
|Any extra charges, for example delivery charges||Y||Y|
|Your right to cancel, where it applies||Y||Y||Y|
|Conditions applying to deposits (if relevant)||Y||Y|
Right to change your mind and cancel
You have a right to change your mind and cancel when you buy a product or service online, over the phone, by mail order or on your doorstep (known as distance contracts).
With this type of distance contract, you do not enter into the contract in person and you cannot check the products or service before you buy. For this reason, you have a ‘cooling off period’ during which you can change your mind and get a refund.
The cooling off period ends 14 days after you receive the goods or service. For doorstep sales, you have 30 days from when the contract was agreed to cancel.
Sometimes you do not have a cooling-off period and the seller must tell you this before you buy. Read more about shopping online.
The terms and conditions of a contract must be fair and clear to the consumer. A term is unfair if it means you are at an unfair disadvantage.
Consumer law sets out terms that may be unfair (the ‘grey list’) and ones that are always and automatically unfair (the ‘black list’).
There are legal tests of the transparency and fairness of contract terms. It is up to the seller to prove that terms are transparent and fair. Find out more about terms and conditions.
Unfair sales practices
You are protected against unfair, misleading or aggressive sales practices.
Sellers are not allowed to:
- Make a false or misleading claim about products, services, and prices
- Sell products or services that show a false or misleading description
- Use aggressive tactics to influence your decision to buy
- Present reviews as genuine without taking steps to check they are not fake
There are 36 sales practices that are always banned (prohibited). Read more about unfair sales practices.
If things go wrong
If you have a problem with something you have bought (for example, it is faulty or does not meet the description given), it is always the seller who must put things right.
Make a complaint
If you want to make a complaint, always approach the seller first, to give them the chance to put things right.
The success of your complaint can depend on a combination of factors - consumer legislation, the seller’s willingness to resolve the issue, and the circumstances of the case itself.
You can get more advice about how to complain.
Take your complaint further
If your complaint is not resolved within a reasonable timeframe or you are not happy with the response, you can:
- Use out-of-court procedures such as the European Consumer Centres Network (for cross-border disputes only) and Online Dispute Resolution (for national and cross-border online disputes)
- Take a claim against the seller using the Small Claims Procedure. For cross-border disputes within the EU, you can use the European Small Claims Procedure.
- Contact the card provider and ask them to reverse the transaction, if you paid by credit or debit card. This is known as chargeback. Some other payment methods also provide protection schemes (for example, PayPal buyer protection). The CCPC has more information on chargeback.
Breaches of consumer law
The Consumer Rights Act 2022 strengthens the enforcement powers of consumer protection agencies including the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
The CCPC can take enforcement action against traders who do not give you the remedies or refunds you are entitled to under the law or who engage in misleading or aggressive practices.
Companies can be fined by the Courts following enforcement action taken by the CCPC.
Find out more about consumer protection organisations.