Shopping from home
You can buy most goods and services from your own home in lots of ways such as on-line, over the phone, on TV shopping channels, on your doorstep or from a catalogue. In all these situations you may not be in a shop - but you are still a consumer, and you have rights.
Be aware that if you buy something from a website that is based outside the EU, these distance selling rules do not apply. For example, the geographical address of the website does not have to be shown. If you are buying from a website outside the EU, you should find out as much as you can about the website before you buy. If something goes wrong with a purchase you make from a website outside the EU, the website's own returns and refunds policy will apply.
Unlike in a shop, when you buy something from home, there is a distance between you and the seller. This type of selling is called "distance selling" and there are EU rules on how distance selling works. These rules are additional benefits to your consumer rights when buying goods and help balance out some of the disadvantages of shopping at a distance.
So, if you order goods from home and they are faulty, the same rights apply as if you had bought them in a shop. Or if the seller gives you a false or misleading description of something, you may also be entitled to a refund.
Most ways to shop from home fall under the distance selling rules, such as ordering an item on-line, over the phone, buying from a mail order catalogue or buying from a TV shopping channel.
When you agree to buy something through distance selling, you have a ‘distance contract’ with the seller. Before you complete the purchase, the seller must give you specific information in a clear manner:
- The identity of the supplier and their address
- A description of what you are buying
- The price, including any taxes
- The delivery costs if any
- The arrangements for payment and delivery
- Details of how to cancel the order, if this applies
- The cost of ordering by distance selling, where the cost is not already known to you – for example, the cost of a premium rate phone call if you have to order this way
- How long the offer or price remains valid for
- The minimum length of the contract, if it is on an ongoing basis, for example, a digital TV subscription.
Also, you should be given more information either before your order is delivered, or when it is delivered, including:
- Confirmation of your order in a ‘durable form’, for example letter, email or fax, that includes the information listed above
- Written information on how to cancel
- A geographical address where you can send complaints to – not a PO box number
- Details of any guarantees or after-sales services
- Details of how and when to end a contract, if there is no end date or if it lasts for longer than a year
These distance selling rules do not apply to:
- Financial services, like banking or insurance
- Items bought using a public payphone
- Auctions where the seller is another consumer
When you buy an item on-line, by phone or catalogue you are given a "'cooling off; period of at least seven working days starting from the date you received your purchase. Before the end of the seven days you must decide if you want to keep the goods, or cancel the order and return the goods and get a refund.
During this cooling off period you don't have to give a reason for returning the goods. But remember, if you cancel in this way rather than returning faulty goods, you may have to pay for the cost of returning the item.
The 7 working days can be extended to a maximum of three months if the seller fails to give you the information required under Distance Selling Rules.
Things not covered by the 'cooling off' period
Your right to cancel does not apply to certain types of goods and services:
- Customised or perishable goods, for example, a football shirt with your name printed on it
- Newspapers, magazines or periodicals
- Audio or video recordings which has been unsealed or used by the consumer
- Computer software which has been unsealed or used by the consumer
- Gaming or lottery services
- Services which have begun with your consent before the end of the cooling-off period
- Goods or services where the price is determined by price fluctuations on the financial market which are not controlled by the supplier
If you order something and it is not available, the supplier must let you know and refund you within 30 days. A supplier can give you a 'substitute' equivalent product if they don’t have what you ordered originally, but only if you agreed to this in the contract - so read the terms and conditions carefully. If you are not happy with the substitute goods, you can return them.
If you buy something through distance selling and it turn out to be faulty, then generally your consumer rights are the same as if you bought it in a shop.
If what you bought is damaged or faulty in any way you should complain to the seller in writing immediately - by email, fax or letter - and ask for a refund or replacement. If you have to return an item because it is faulty, the seller is liable for any return shipping costs.
If the refund is not provided within 30 days of cancellation and you paid for the goods using a credit or debit card, your card provider may agree to reverse the transaction. This is called a chargeback. Contact your provider (the bank or credit card company who issued the card) immediately and give them details of your transaction.
Customs and excise
You legally have to pay import charges like customs or excise duties on items you buy from outside the EU. But you can import consignments of most goods not exceeding a value of €22 from outside the EU without having to pay import charges. Excise duty is also due on alcohol, tobacco, perfume and certain other products imported from the EU.
Value Added Tax (VAT) must also be paid on imported items at the same rate that applies in Ireland for similar goods.