Your rights as a consumer in Ireland
The following information is an overview of consumer law in Ireland. It sets out basic rules when you buy goods and services. There are also links to more detailed information explaining your rights in specific situations.
In Ireland, the rights of consumers of goods and services are protected by Irish and EU laws. Consumer law aims to ensure that consumers have enough information about prices and quality of products and services to make suitable choices on what to buy. Consumer law also aims to ensure that goods are safe and are manufactured to an acceptable standard.
Consumer law only takes effect in certain situations and depends on what the contract is between the consumer and the provider of the items or services in question. The following explains who is a consumer and what is a contract.
Who is a consumer?
Generally speaking a consumer is defined in Irish law as a natural person who buys goods or a service for personal use or consumption from someone whose business it is to sell goods or provide services. By law, you are not a consumer if you:
- Receive goods as a gift
- Buy goods for commercial purposes (i.e. you will be using the goods for commercial and not private use)
- Buy goods for private use that are normally used for business purposes
- Buy goods from an individual who is not in business (i.e. you buy a car from an individual whose normal business is not selling cars)
What is a contract?
A contract is a formal agreement between two or more people that is enforceable by law. When you buy goods or services you enter into a contract with the seller. Contracts are made up of terms; some of which can be implied terms. Contracts may be written or oral. It is easier to know what the terms are in a written contract but an oral contract is also enforceable in law. Contracts may differ in many ways and there are no hard and fast rules governing what terms should be in a consumer contract. Terms in consumer contracts must always be fair and clear to the consumer. The following general rules apply to consumer contracts.
Consumer contracts are protected by the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980.
Under this Act the purchaser of goods has a number of rights - the main ones are
- Goods must be of merchantable quality – goods should be of reasonable quality taking into account what they are meant to do, their durability and their price
- Goods must be fit for their purpose – they must do what they are reasonably expected to do
- Goods must be as described - the buyer must not be mislead into buying something by the description of goods or services given orally by a salesperson or an advertisement.
When you buy goods in a sale you have the same rights as when you pay full price for the goods.
If you have a contract with a supplier of services you can expect that:
- The supplier has the necessary skill to provide the service
- The service will be provided with proper care and diligence
- The materials used will be sound and that goods supplied with the service will be of merchantable quality
You can read more about your rights when you buy a service here.
If things go wrong
If you have a problem with an item that you have bought it is always the seller who should put things right. As a general rule, the seller can either repair or replace the item. Alternatively, they can refund the costs of the item or service to the consumer.
If you are not satisfied with the quality of goods or services you can:
- Return the goods to the supplier who sold it to you (you should not return the goods to the manufacturer)
- Act as soon as you can – a delay can indicate that you have accepted faulty goods or services
- Do not attempt to repair the item yourself or give it to anyone else to repair it
- Make sure that you have a proof of purchase (a receipt, cheque stub, credit card statement or invoice)
You have no grounds for redress if
- You were told about the defect before you bought the item (for example, if the goods were marked 'shopsoiled')
- You examined the item before you bought it and should have seen the defect
- You bought the item knowing that it wasn’t fit for what you wanted it to do
- You broke or damaged the product
- You made a mistake when buying the item (for example, if you bought an item of clothing thinking it was black when it is actually navy)
- You change your mind
Retailers are not obliged to give refunds or credit notes under the above circumstances even if you show proof of purchase.
It is important to note that there are no hard and fast rules as to which remedy you should be entitled to. When seeking redress for problems with goods or services the circumstances of each individual case must be taken into account.
Further information on your rights when goods are faulty is available on Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's website.
If you are not satisfied with the seller's response you may be able to take a claim to the Small Claims Court.
If you made your purchase using your debit or credit card you may be able to get your bank or credit card company to reverse the transaction. This is called a chargeback. You should contact your card provider as soon as possible. Give them details of the transaction you are disputing and request that they follow it up. Most card schemes offer full chargeback rights to consumers, but with some debit cards schemes you cannot use the chargeback facility if you did not receive the goods. Further information on chargeback is available on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's website.
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is the statutory office with responsibility for providing advice and information to consumers on their rights. In addition, the CCPC is responsible for the enforcement of a wide range of consumer protection laws. The CCPC does not intervene or become involved in individual issues or disputes between consumers and sellers of goods or services providers. The CCPC can, however, advise you if you have a particular consumer problem.
A deposit is a payment made to a supplier of a product or a service by a consumer which indicates an intention to buy a product or a service. The amount of the deposit and the timing of payment of the balance are a matter between the consumer and the supplier. When you pay a deposit for goods a contract is created between you as a consumer, and the supplier of the product or service. You should be clear at the time of paying a deposit what your obligations are (e.g. when you need to pay the balance, how much each payment is etc). You should also be clear about the duties of the supplier (e.g. when the product will be available).
It is always easier to know what your rights and responsibilities are if you have details of the contract in writing, however, a verbal contract is also enforceable. If the supplier does not adhere to the terms of the contract (e.g. delivery of a product takes significantly longer than stated) you may have a right to ask for your deposit to be returned. If you pay a deposit to a supplier who, in return, holds an article for you and you change your mind about paying the balance the supplier may not in all these circumstances be obliged to return your deposit.
If the seller goes out of business before goods are delivered
If you buy goods (or pay a deposit on them) and the seller goes out of business before they are delivered, you may have considerable difficulty in getting either the goods or your money back. Usually the seller in these circumstances owes money to a number of people so your claim is just one of many. There are rules for the priority to be given to the various debts in the case of the business going into liquidation or receivership. Generally, the individual customer is low in the order of priority. If you paid for the goods by credit card, it is worthwhile to contact the credit card company who may not have actually paid or may be able to cancel the payment – you do not have a right to have this done but the credit card company may be able to do it for you. Information on how to protect yourself from sellers who may go out of business and on your rights if a business is liquidated is available on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's website.
Information on Goods, Services and Prices
Consumers are entitled to information which protects them from false claims about goods, services and prices under the Consumer Protection Act 2007. Under the act it is an offence for any retailer or professional to make a false or misleading claim about goods, services and prices. It is also an offence to sell goods which bear a false or misleading description.
Claims about the weight, ingredients and performance of goods must be stated truthfully. Also claims made about how items operate and where they were made must be true.
Claims about the time, place or manner in which a service is provided and claims about the effect of a service and the service providers must also be true.
This act also covers claims about prices. Actual prices, previous prices and recommended prices of goods and services must be stated truthfully. Where a price is stated it should be clear what particular item it relates to. It should be the total price and there should be no hidden extras. If a retailer makes a mistake the buyer does not have the right to demand that the goods be sold to them at the marked price.