Your refund rights and the law
When you buy goods or services in Ireland you have legal rights as a consumer under Irish and European Union (EU) legislation.
The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 states that any purchase bought from a retailer must be:
- suitable for sale and of merchantable quality
- fit for purpose and in working order
- as described on the label, packaging or advertising
You are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair if the item you have bought does not meet the above conditions.
This applies for six years under Irish law, however, there are some conditions.
If you return your purchase:
- within six months: you don’t need to supply proof of the pre-existing fault.
- after six months: you need to prove the fault existed at the time of purchase.
Should you ask the manufacturer or retailer for a refund?
If your purchase is faulty, unfit for purpose or not as described, the seller is responsible and must refund, replace or repair the goods.
This is because when you buy an item from a shop, you enter into a contract with them. The seller agrees to provide you with goods at a set price.
If the shop goes bust and your product is still under guarantee, then the manufacturer must honour it and repair, replace or refund.
Should you accept a credit note?
You do not need to accept a credit note if your complaint is covered under the Sale of Goods Act. If your product is faulty, unfit for purpose or not as described you can insist on a refund, repair or replacement regardless of store policy.
The shop may offer you a credit note as a gesture of goodwill if you change your mind about a purchase, but they are not under any obligation to do so.
Reasons you won’t be entitled to an in-store refund
When you buy goods from the high street, shopping mall or any physical shop, there are some circumstances when you are not legally entitled to a refund:
- Change of heart: You have no legal right to a refund if you simply change your mind about a product or decide you don’t like the colour or fit of an item.
- Damage or breakage: If you damage an item by your own misuse you cannot legally claim a refund.
- You made a mistake: If you buy the wrong size, book the wrong dates, or overlook an obvious defect at the time of purchase, you have no legal grounds for a refund.
- Goods sold as seconds or shop-soiled: If you knowingly buy a damaged item e.g. if it’s reduced, you have no right to a refund. However, this doesn’t apply if you buy items in a ‘sale’.
If you have a change of heart about a purchase some shops will accept your return and provide a refund, exchange or credit note. This is seen as a gesture of goodwill but is not legally required.
Shopping online and your refund rights
When you buy online, you’re fully covered under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 and have the same protection as when you buy in-store. You also have some extra rights.
Online retailers must provide:
- A description of the goods
- Contact details & physical address
- Total price of goods (inc. taxes)
- The ‘offer’ length
- Payment methods
- Delivery arrangements
- Cancellation procedures
Can you get your money back even if the item isn’t faulty?
If you change your mind about a purchase made online you have more refund rights than if you were buying from a high street store.
You are entitled to a ‘cooling-off period’, which lasts 14 days starting from the day you received the items.
This is because when you buy online, you are unable to view the goods before committing to purchase.
You can cancel the order for any reason before the end of the 14 day period, even if you just have a change of heart. The retailer is required by law to refund you, however, you may have to pay ‘shipping costs’ to send the goods back to the seller.
If the online retailer doesn’t adequately inform you of your cancellation rights, the Consumer Rights Directive 2014 states that the cooling-off period is extended to 12 months.
Are there any exceptions to the cooling-off period?
Yes, there are a number of reasons the seller can refuse to refund you, such as:
- bespoke goods, e.g. tailor-made or personalised items
- perishable products, e.g. fresh food, flowers and newspapers
- security sealed or wrapped items, e.g. CDs and DVDs
- underwear or swimwear
Are you responsible for the cost of returning items?
Yes, unless otherwise stated, you have to pay the cost of sending items back. However, some larger or well-known brands may have a free returns policy.
It’s worth checking the seller’s returns policy before you buy, because some bigger items may cost more to return than the refund amount.
What if your purchases are not delivered?
If your order doesn’t arrive, you should contact the seller to get a refund. This must be provided within 14 days by law.
If the seller fails to provide a refund and you have paid for the goods by debit or credit card, you may be able to initiate a chargeback claim.
When you buy from a seller within the EU, the purchase is covered by the Consumer Rights Directive (2014). Check the address of your online retailer because you will not be covered if they’re outside the EU.
Are you legally protected if you buy from an individual?
No, consumer protection legislation doesn’t cover you if you buy from an individual, either directly or through seller platforms, for example, eBay or Etsy.
However, PayPal, the online payment system, offers PayPal Buyer Protection when you want to request a refund or a transaction goes wrong.
Online auctions, are not be governed by consumer law and no cooling off period applies, but the auction site may offer to help resolve any dispute.
Credit card returns and refunds
If you made the purchase on your credit card, your refund will be credited to your card. It’s unlikely you will get a cash refund because the money goes to your card issuer. This can take up to five business days normally.
In Ireland, you don’t get extra consumer protection if you buy with your credit card. However, you do get a form of protection called ‘chargeback’ if you make a purchase in-store or online with your debit or credit card.
What is a chargeback?
A chargeback is when your credit card provider reverses the transaction after you have paid for goods or services. You can claim chargeback for:
- Non-delivery or failure to receive goods or services
- Faulty products or items sold not as described
How to make a chargeback claim
You can make a chargeback request up to 120 days after the card payment or agreed delivery date. You will need to:
- Request your refund from the seller first. If they refuse or have gone out of business you can contact your bank or card issuer.
- Contact your bank and ask them to start the chargeback process. They will then start the reversal by contacting the card processing network (Visa or Mastercard).
- The card processing network will inform the retailer of the dispute, request documentation from the retailer and debit their account.
- The retailer then has between 10 and 45 days to respond and defend their case. If they do not, you will be refunded and the case closed.
There is no legal basis for this process, but it’s a system put in place globally by the payment networks Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
6 tips to protect your purchases
- Know your legal refund rights: you have the right to a refund, replacement or repair if the item is faulty, unfit for purpose or not sold as described.
- Keep proof of purchases: physical receipts, order confirmations or bank statements all count as proof of purchase.
- Check items before you buy: check for damage or soiling to save yourself the hassle of returning.
- Check the store’s return policy: shops may have their own returns policy that are more lenient than the law, but give a set timeframe to return an item e.g. 30 days.
- Act quickly: if you bought in-store and need to return a faulty or unfit product, return it as soon as possible. If you ordered online, act within the 14 day cooling-off period.
- Use your debit or credit card for extra protection: buying on your debit or credit card not only provides you with a proof of purchase, but you can also ask your bank to reverse the transaction on ‘chargeback’ if an item is faulty or not delivered.
Returns and refunds FAQs
Can I return a faulty gift for a refund?
If you receive the item as a gift, for instance, a Christmas present, you don’t personally have a contract with the seller and therefore do not have the same legal right. However, many retailers will offer a refund as a gesture of goodwill if you have proof of purchase.
Gift receipts can be used to return an item for an exchange or gift card but not usually for a cash refund.
Can I return an item without a receipt?
Yes, but you have to show proof of purchase. This can be a debit or credit card statement or order confirmation with proof of payment.
What can I do if a retailer refuses to refund me?
A retailer can dispute your claim to a refund if it is acting within Irish legislation.
However, if you think the retailer is wrong, find out about how to make a complaint at Citizens Information. If you want to take your complaint further, contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
What is a credit note?
A credit note is a digital or physical note given to a customer in place of a refund. A credit note is, in effect, a voucher that can only be used for the shop (or chain of shops) that issued the credit note.
What is a warranty?
Warranties are optional and usually cost extra, unless they’re offered for free. They are usually offered by the shop where you bought the product.
A warranty is an insurance policy which covers the product beyond the manufacturer’s guarantee period. The benefit of a warranty is that if the product develops a fault or becomes unfit for purpose within the warranty period, the manufacturer has to pay for the repair or replace the item.
A warranty does not affect your refund rights.
What is PayPal Buyer Protection?
PayPal Buyer Protection offers you full consumer protection if you buy an item online with PayPal. If the transaction results in a problem, e.g. the item doesn’t arrive or is evidently not as described, Paypal will help you get a full refund.
You can find out more about whether your transaction qualifies on the PayPal website.