Whether it’s an unwelcome, though well-intentioned gift, or a dodgy purchase in the sales, many people are looking askance at some of their new stuff and wondering whether they can send it back or get a refund or credit note to exchange for something they actually want.
January blues often start with regret for over-spending, or when hints about what presents you wanted fell on deaf ears.
And it’s always a good time to get your facts together about when, where and how you can actually return items you no longer want.
Although many shops are really good at taking things back, in law, they have no obligation to do so.
Your ‘statutory rights’ to get a refund only apply where the item purchased is faulty, not as described, or is unfit for purpose.
For a perfectly good item, even if it doesn’t fit, or is the wrong colour or product for you, you do not have a right to return it with the expectation of getting a refund, or even a credit note.
I get a lot of queries in January about this and it can be confusing.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask anyway, but stores tend to be strict about Christmas, and especially, sales stock because they really don’t want it back.
The only exception to the no-returns rule is where the item was purchased online, from an Irish or EU website.
This is because the law recognises you didn’t have the opportunity to physically examine the item, whether it’s clothes, toys or gadgets, before you bought. In this case, you do have a right to return it, with its complete packaging, unopened and unused and at your own expense, for any reason, including that you just didn’t like it.
Even so, these rights only apply for 14 days after the item was purchased (when you must notify the company), although you have a further 14 days to actually return it.
Where you return a gifted product your rights are the same. “While you may need a proof of purchase, the business can’t refuse to deal with you because you didn’t buy the product yourself. The business also can’t require you to accept a refund on to the same payment card used to buy the product”, says the CCPC.
You cannot, in any circumstance, return custom made items (e.g. a football shirt with your name on it), perishable or hygienic products like food, or underwear, or tickets for concerts or events unless specifically allowed by the business itself.
The Consumer Rights Act 2022 has been updated to give stronger rights to consumers which is great news.
While it doesn’t materially change the above, it does mean where goods are faulty, you can now insist on a full, no hassle refund within 30 days of a purchase. Up to now, the shop could decide to try and repair or replace them as a first step.
See the panel for a summary of the strengthened laws.
Ireland and the EU
Where you want to return something that isn’t up to scratch your first port of call is the shop where it was bought. Ignore them if they tell you to send it back to the manufacturer; your contract is with the shop. It may or may not be under a ‘warranty’, but your Statutory rights trounce this.
They can ask for ‘proof of purchase’, but this can be evidence on your bank statement of the purchase.
If you have no luck, then you should ask to speak to (or write to) the manager, customer complaints department or head office, and they must supply you with this information.
If they still refuse, then you can take further action via State resolution services. For products bought in Ireland, this is usually the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (ccpc.ie). For products bought in the EU, you should start with the European Consumer Centre (eccireland.ie) who will guide you to the correct member organisation in that country.
The CCPC says in the first year of any product’s life, the law sides with the consumer if a good is faulty. This means a trader should provide a replacement, a repair or failing that a refund– unless they can prove the product wasn’t faulty when sold.
You can also agree on a reduction in price”. It adds, “Depending on how long the product should reasonably last, the trader can be responsible for resolving issues for faulty products for up to six years”.
This does not apply to UK-based companies.
Your returns rights are exactly the same for products which are faulty, irrespective of the price you paid. A shop may refuse to take back anything in perfect condition, purchased as a gift.
First home scheme expanded
The popular, taxpayer-funded First Home scheme has proved popular with first-time buyers around the country – and now the Government is widening the net.
The scheme hands out cash to borrowers to make up the difference between their saved deposit and the house price, where it falls short.
They don’t even have to pay it back, but the State will take an equity portion of the property and if it is sold in the future, the percentage given out is repaid then.
While it does get buyers over an early hump, they could end up paying back a lot more than if they had simply been able to borrow the difference from a bank, because it is based on the uplifted future value.
Borrowers can get up to 30pc of the purchase price to a maximum new limit of €75,000, or 20pc if they’re also getting their tax refunded under the Help to Buy scheme.
The property value limits for those included are also being broadened, so that in many major counties, including Dublin, the ‘price ceiling’ of the house will now be increased to €475,000 for a house and €500,000 for an apartment.
Borrowers must buy from AIB, Bank of Ireland or PTSB for their mortgage, and only new homes are considered.
It means there will technically be three owners of a house: the purchaser, the bank and now, the Department of Housing.
Of course it would be better if there was sufficient housing, at appropriate prices so that the hand-out wasn’t required. See www.firsthomescheme.ie
€50 boost for energy customers
Following on from record-busting profits at the State’s electricity supplier, Electric Ireland has decided to return some of the income made to its customers.
So, a €50 ‘Winter Credit’ will be applied to all bills from today, hitting the next bill before it arrives and will be appreciated by its 1.2 million customers.
ESB reported revenues of €3.7 billion in the first half of 2022 and profits of €390 million. It operates separately to the Electric Ireland division, which it owns. It announced an increase in the average electricity bill by 26.7pc last October.
Still, we’ll take what we can get, and it would be good to see other suppliers giving something back to its loyal customer base as the cold weather continues.