Your rights as a consumer in Ireland
When you buy a product or a service you have a number of rights under Irish and European Union (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 available 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.
What is a consumer contract?
When you buy goods and services, you are making a contract with the seller. As parties to the agreement, both you and the seller have certain legal rights and obligations.
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 are my consumer rights?
Irish and EU consumer laws only apply to transactions between a consumer (a person who buys a good or service for personal use or consumption) and a trader (a person acting for purposes related to their trade, business or profession). It 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 who does not sell cars as a profession)
- You buy goods or services intended for use in your business (business-to-business transactions)
- You buy from a trader based outside the EU or European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein)
The main consumer laws in Ireland and the protections they provide are explained below.
If you want to learn more about your rights when buying products in any EU Member State, you can also read about Consumer rights in the European Union.
Sale of goods and supply of Services Act 1980
When you buy products, they must be ‘in conformity with the contract’. This means they must be:
- Of merchantable quality – this means of reasonable and acceptable standard, taking into account other factors such as durability and price
- Fit for the purpose you bought it for – they should work and do what they are reasonably expected to do
- As described – they should match any description given in an advert or other information provided by the seller at the time of sale
If the products you receive are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or do not match the description you were given, you have a right to certain remedies. A remedy could be a repair, replacement or a refund.
Contracts for the supply of services are currently subject to much less statutory regulation than contracts for the sale of products. When you make an agreement with a supplier of services, for example, a carpenter, a plumber or a dentist, the agreement may be written or oral or a bit of both. In general, the terms of the agreement are what you agree with the supplier or trader.
You can read more in our document about buying a service.
Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees
Consumers’ rights are further strengthened by the Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 1999/44/EC. S.I. No. 11/2003 gives effect to the Directive in Ireland.
Under the regulations, products must be ‘in conformity’ with the contract. To be in conformity, the products must meet specific conditions about quality. The conditions are mostly the same as in the Sale of Goods Act.
You are entitled to certain remedies, that is, repair, replacement or refund when products do not meet the specific quality standards. If you find a problem within 6 months, it is presumed that it was there at the time of delivery. It is up to the seller to prove otherwise.
The right to a remedy applies for at least 2 years across the EU. Member States are allowed to set longer time limits (known as limitation periods). In Ireland, the limitation period is 6 years. This means you are entitled to raise a problem about a product for up to 6 years from the date of buying.
Find out more about your rights to repair, replacement or refunds.
The terms and conditions of a contract must be fair and clear to the consumer under the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations. A term is considered unfair if it means that the consumer is at a disadvantage.
Find out more about unfair contract terms.
You have added protections against unfair, misleading or aggressive commercial practices. These rights are under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC which became law in Ireland through the Consumer Protection Act 2007.
Under the Act, it is an offence for any trader to make a false or misleading claim about products, services, and prices. It is also an offence to sell products that show a false or misleading description. It bans traders from using aggressive tactics to influence your decision to buy. There are also 32 commercial practices that are always banned (prohibited).
Find out more about unfair commercial practices.
Online shopping rights
When you buy online from an online trader in Ireland, or elsewhere in the EU, you have strong rights under the EU Consumer Rights Directive (CRD).
These rights include:
- The right to clear and accurate information
- The right to change your mind and cancel (some purchases are not included)
- The express right to refund for delayed or non-delivery
- Right to redress in case of faulty goods
S.I. No. 484/2013 gives effect to the Directive in Ireland.
Find out more information about shopping online.
What is my 'right to redress' 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. As a general rule, the seller must offer a repair or replacement. Alternatively, they can give you a refund.
If you are not satisfied with the quality of the products or services you should:
- Return the item to the seller (not the manufacturer)
- Act as soon as you can – a delay can indicate that you have accepted faulty products
- Don’t attempt to repair the item yourself or give it to anyone else to repair it
- Make sure you have proof of purchase, for example a receipt or credit card statement
- For services, keep all evidence of damage caused by poor work, for example take photos.
Find out more about making a complaint.
When your rights are affected
You may have no grounds for redress if:
- You were informed about the defect before you bought the item - for example, the goods were marked ‘shop-soiled’ or the car dealer told you a part needed replacing on a second-hand vehicle
- The damage is caused by your own misuse or negligence – if the fault appears six months after it was received, you may have to prove that it was not caused by you
- You made a mistake when buying the item – for example, buying a black dress instead of navy or entering the wrong dates for a flight
- The fault is superficial and you examined the item before you bought it and should have seen the defect
- You changed your mind – the right to cancel under the CRD does not apply to goods bought in-store. Find out more about your rights when shopping online.
Other redress options
The success of your complaint can depend on a combination of factors - consumer legislation, the trader’s willingness to resolve the issue, and the circumstances of the case itself.
If your complaint is not resolved within a reasonable timeframe or or you are not happy with the response, you have the following options:
- If you paid using credit card or debit card, you can contact the card provider and ask them to reverse the transaction. 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.
- 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 avail of the European Small Claims Procedure.
If you need more help
If you cannot resolve the problem yourself, you can contact the following consumer bodies for advice and support:
- Dispute with an Irish-based trader: Contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)
- Dispute with a trader based in another EU country: Contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland
Find out more about consumer protection organisations.