When you buy products and services, you make a contract with the seller. Under the contract, you and the seller have certain legal rights and obligations.
You have the same rights when you buy at full price, reduced price (for example, in a sale) or buy a second-hand good (if bought from a business).
In some cases, you are restricted by a seller’s shop policy or terms and conditions, for example where you simply change your mind – see ‘Returning products you do not want’ below.
You can read more about the stronger consumer rights that you have when shopping online.
You can get more detailed information on the following shopping-related topics:
- Repairs, repllacements and refunds
- Guarantees and warranties
- Credit notes
- Gift vouchers and gift cards
- Company gone out of business
Your right to information before you buy
As part of your decision to buy something, you gather information on the options and prices available. It is an offence for any seller to make a false or misleading claim about products. Sellers must not make claims that would distort your buying decisions.
Traders must not make false or misleading claims about:
- The product’s main characteristics such as its availability at a particular price, the quantity, weight, or volume or expected results
- The price, the way it was calculated and the nature of a specific price advantage
- The legal rights of the consumer (contractual or otherwise)
- The trader’s commitments
- Marketing and advertising
Returning products you do not want
You do not have an automatic right to a refund when returning an item you bought in a shop because you have simply changed your mind. If there is nothing wrong with the item (for example, there is no fault) you have no legal right to return the goods. Whether or not you can get your money back depends on the seller’s returns policy.
However, most sellers voluntarily allow customers to return or replace goods during a certain time period. The seller may offer a refund, exchange or credit note as a goodwill gesture. For this reason, you should check what the seller’s returns policy is before you buy.
If the seller accepts returns, there is usually an obligation that:
- You make sure the items are in good condition
- The original labels and tags are attached
- You can provide proof of purchase (for example, a receipt)
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has more information about changing your mind.
If things go wrong
Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980 all products must meet certain conditions of quality, performance and durability. This means that when you buy something it has to be:
- Of satisfactory (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 must do what they are reasonably expected to do
- As described - they must match any description given in an advertisement or other information provided by the seller at the time of sale
If the fault appears within the first 6 months, it is assumed that the problem existed when you received the goods and it is up to the seller to prove otherwise. If the fault appears after the first 6 months, you can be asked to prove that the problem existed when you got it.
Buying something in a sale
When you buy something in a sale you have the same rights as when you pay full price. Your rights do not change just because there has been a reduction in price or a special offer.
The CCPC has more advice about shopping in the sales.
How to make a complaint
If things go wrong, you should follow these steps:
- Bring the product back to the seller with original packaging, if possible and proof of purchase such as receipt, bank or credit card statement, or invoice
- Explain what the problem is and how you would like it to be corrected
- Follow up with a written formal complaint if the problem cannot be resolved
Find out more about making a complaint.
If you are not satisfied with the seller’s response
If the problem is not resolved with the seller within a reasonable timeframe or you are not happy with the seller’s response, you can:
- Contact your card provider (where you paid by credit card or debit card) 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.
- Take a claim against the seller using the small claims procedure.
If you need more help
If you cannot resolve the problem yourself, contact the following consumer bodies for advice and support:
- Disputes about an Irish-based trader: Contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)
- Disputes with a trader based in another EU country: Contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland
Find out more about consumer protection organisations.