Ahead of World Consumer Rights Day on Sunday 15th March, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has published details about the most frequent consumer rights queries it receives about products and services.
Given the current focus on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the CCPC has included a Q&A in relation to the most frequently asked questions which consumers are asking.
Can I cancel my package holiday if the area I’m travelling to is affected by the COVID-19?
If you have booked or are thinking about booking a package holiday you should first check if the area you are travelling to is affected by COVID-19 on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website. Package holiday legislation allows you to cancel in the event of extraordinary circumstances occurring at your destination and you are entitled to a full refund. Covid-19 is a new development and it is a significant health risk. Therefore, if it is the advice of the Irish Government and in particular DFA is to not travel to affected areas, it would appear to be unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances and consumers should be able to cancel and get refunded without a penalty.
If I book a flight directly with an airline and it is subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19, am I entitled to a refund?
If you have planned a trip where you booked the various elements individually, such as flights or a hotel, you do not have the same level of protection as you do with a package holiday. If your flight is cancelled, regardless of when you are told about the cancellation, your airline must offer you the choice between:
- re-routing as close as possible to the original departure time
- re-routing at a later date or
- a refund of the cost of the unused flight ticket.
You may be entitled to compensation as well depending on when you found out the flight was cancelled. Get more information on www.flightrights.ie
What are my rights if I choose not to fly because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation?
If you decide not to fly because you are concerned about COVID-19, and the flight has not been cancelled by the airline, if you have not booked them as part of a package holiday you may lose the money you paid. But it is worth contacting your airline as some airlines are offering refunds or letting consumers rebook. Find out more about your flight rights at www.flightrights.ie. If you were unable to rebook or get a refund contact your travel insurance provider to see if you can claim on your policy.
Can I claim on my travel insurance if the Government is advising against travel to my holiday destination because of COVID-19?
The DFA is currently advising against non-essential travel to China, Iran and Italy. In these cases, you may be able to make a claim on your travel insurance, however this will depend on the T&Cs of your policy and when you bought your policy.
Will travel insurance cover the cost of my holiday if I choose not to fly due to COVID-19?
If you decide to cancel your trip to a country which the DFA has not advised against travel to, it is unlikely that you will get a refund. But you should check your policy or get in touch with your travel insurance provider to find out. It’s important to know that if you take out travel insurance after the DFA has advised against travelling to your destination, it is very unlikely that your travel insurance provider will consider any claim you make. If the DFA has advised against travel to your destination and you choose to go anyway, your travel insurance may become void. That could mean that any claim you subsequently make may be denied. If you can prove that your travel was essential, this may not be the case. However, it is not clear what is considered to be ‘essential’ travel, so make sure to check with your travel insurance provider before you go.
ONLINE SHOPPING & DELIVERIES:
What happens if my online deliveries have been delayed due to COVID-19?
COVID-19 could impact on the ability of businesses in affected areas to produce goods or to meet agreed delivery timescales. This could mean that you may experience delays or even non-delivery. Your rights in relation to buying online depend on whether you bought the item from an EU, or a non-EU country. If you bought from a website within the EU, you have strong rights. The delivery times depend on what you agreed when you bought the item and if the delivery time was not agreed the item should be delivered within 30 days. If the item is not delivered within this time frame you have two options:
- you can agree a different date that suits you or
- you can cancel the contract and get a refund.
You do not have the same level of protection if you buy from a website based in a country that is outside the EU and you will need to check the terms and conditions of the website you made the purchase from.
If you have failed to get a refund for non-delivery of goods from a business and you have paid by credit or debit card you could try the chargeback option. You should contact your credit or debit card provider – usually your bank – who may agree to reverse the transactions. More information can be found about chargebacks on https://www.ccpc.ie/consumers/shopping/disputed-card-transactions-chargeback/.
General Consumer Rights – FAQs
The CCPC helps consumers to understand their rights and make informed decisions. Each year the CCPC receives over 40,000+ contacts from consumers, listed below are some of the most frequent consumer rights questions the CCPC receives.
Are my consumer rights different for items on sale?
Consumer rights don’t change in a sale, their rights are the same as any other time of the year. In all cases, products must be as they are described, fit for the intended purpose and be of satisfactory quality. This is particularly important if a consumer returns something they bought on sale because it is faulty, in which case, they have the option of a repair, replacement, reduction in the price or a full refund. It is up to the consumer to negotiate the preferred option with the retailer.
If I have a guarantee or a warranty can the business direct me to the manufacturer, as opposed to fixing my problem?
Guarantees are usually free and generally confirm that the manufacturer will repair or replace an item if something goes wrong within a certain amount of time after you buy it. The difference with warranties is that they usually cost money and may be sold by the shop where you are buying the product. It is similar to an insurance policy and covers the product beyond the manufacturer’s guarantee period. It is important to know that these are in addition to your you still consumer rights. This means if you buy a product and it becomes faulty you do not have to deal with the manufacturer. The business you bought it from is required to resolve the issue. Always act quickly and go back to where you bought it from as your contract is with that business. More information can be found on www.ccpc.ie
Am I entitled to a refund if my online purchase turns out to be faulty?
If you buy something online and it turns out to be faulty you have the same rights as if you bought it in a shop. This means products must be as they are described, fit for the intended purpose and be of satisfactory quality. If you buy something that turns out to be faulty, email the business immediately, explain the situation and ask for a refund or replacement. If the item you bought online is faulty you don’t have to pay the cost of returning it and you are also entitled to standard delivery costs you paid. There is no timeframe in which the fault needs to occur but it is important to get in contact with the business as soon as you become aware that there is an issue.
Do I need a receipt to return a product I purchased if it’s faulty?
Receipts are an important and easy way to prove a product had been purchased in a particular store, but not the only form of acceptable proof. For consumers who want to make a return, but feel defeated after losing their receipt, can take comfort in knowing that bank or credit card statements can also be used as proof of purchase.
For more information regarding consumer rights visit; www.ccpc.ie