New laws covering consumer rights around faulty goods and services, digital products and sale pricing take effect from today.
The Consumer Rights Act introduces stronger rights of redress for faulty goods, including the straightforward option of cancelling a faulty purchase within 30 days for a full refund.
Kevin O’Brien, member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, said yesterday was a very positive day for consumers with two new pieces of legislation.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said the Consumer Rights Act is very broad and is “an uplifting of consumer protection across a whole host of areas”, including improved redress.
He said that if an item is broken within 30 days of being bought, if it is faulty, “you should get an immediate refund, no questions asked.
“We also see services covered by consumer protection in a way that they weren’t before, so that could be hotel accommodation, it could be home improvements and then we also see the digital world coming into consumer protection in a very clear way.
“We’ve become more and more used to engaging and buying things online, including digital content. So, digital content such as downloading games, subscription services, is now all fully covered.
“If we pay with our data instead of money, that’s considered a consumer activity, with the framework applying”, he said.
He explained that there are also new rules for online marketplaces.
He advised consumers to firstly take any issue up with the trader, or with the supplier.
He said that most traders and businesses adhere to the rules and want to treat their consumers well, but if that doesn’t work people should contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Apart from the Commission’s website, he said, there is a helpline that explains how people can make a complaint. If the consumer does not get the right attention from a trader they can go to the small claims court.
He said that if the commission sees patterns of activity from traders where they are not meeting the requirements of the framework, they will be investigated. Inspections are carried out and if necessary, enforcement action is taken, including prosecution.
He said that most of the rules under the Consumer Rights Act are regionally European rules that are being transposed, but in a lot of cases strengthened in the Irish regime.
“It covers the EU, the UK is not covered of course, and one of our pieces of advice to consumers, particularly if you’re buying online, is always to check if the website and the trader are in the European Union.
“Because if that’s the case, that stronger set of pan-European rules will apply and give you protection.”
In relation to pricing indication regulation he said that if a retailer is discounting or has a sale, they must now show the previous price and it must be the lowest price in the last 30 days.
“So, in the past you might have this situation of a price going up before it went down, so you could say and claim there is a big discount. We did some research and it suggested something like 60% of Irish consumers didn’t necessarily trust what they were being told when they saw sales offers or discount offers.
“So, what this should do now is really bring confidence to that.”