1. Who is a consumer?
A person comes within the legal meaning of the term “consumer”, in a situation and only in a situation, where they buy goods for their personal use or consumption from someone who sells them in the course of a business and the goods are ordinarily supplied for private use or consumption.
A person who receives goods as a gift is not considered to be a “consumer” within the meaning of the Act and neither is someone who intends to use the goods in the course of a business.
2. A consumer contract
A contract exists between the buyer (the consumer) and the seller (usually a retailer). When goods are bought the “consumer” has a contract with the seller. Under this contract the consumer has a legal right to expect that the goods will be of reasonable quality taking into account what is said about them (advertising), what they are supposed to do, their durability and their price been seen on examination of the goods.
3. The consumer is entitled to expect:
- that the supplier has the necessary skill to provide the service.
- that the service will be provided with proper care and diligence
- That materials used will be sound and that goods supplied as part of the service will be of a merchantable quality.
4. Your rights when things go wrong
If the service is unsatisfactory or the goods are nor of a merchantable quality or are not fit for their purpose or are not as described the consumer is entitled to some remedy or compensation.
5. If things go wrong who is responsible for putting them right?
The seller:-always. It is the seller who has the contract with the buyer/consumer and the seller is always responsible to the consumer.
6. The essential steps to consumer rights
- Complain to the person (the shop or the business) who sold the goods or service.
- Act promptly and reasonably: delay could result in a loss of rights.
- As a first step the consumer must be able to establish that the goods or service in question were bought from or provided by the seller in question, e.g. through the production of a receipt or other form of proof of purchase.
(Put simply, the consumer who is making the complaint must be able to show convincingly, as a necessary first step to having their rights vindicated, that they bought the goods where they say they bought them).
7. If you change your mind?
The consumer has no rights to a remedy (refund) if what is involved is a change of mind or “second thoughts” about the goods after purchase.
There are no rights either for faults that are due to misuse of the goods; for faults which are pointed out at the time of purchase or for faults which should have.
8. Role of the National Consumer Agency (NCA)
The role of the NCA formerly known as the Office of the Dirctor of Consumer Affairs (ODCA) is to give information and guidance to consumers on their statutory rights. ODCA does not intervene or become involved in individual issues or disputes between consumers and sellers of goods or service provider
Where the consumer and the trader cannot agree a solution then the only option may be for the consumer to go to court. In the last analysis only a court can order a trader to give compensation.
9. Small Claims Court Procedure
Where a consumer encounters difficulty in having their rights dealt with by a seller or supplier the District Court small claims procedure can in certain circumstances offer a remedy.
Anyone who has bought goods or a service for private use from someone selling in the course of business may take a small claims action.
Claims can be made for faulty goods, bad workmanship or a service not properly rendered but claims cannot be made for debts, personal injuries, or for goods bought on hire-purchase or on leasing agreements.
10. Small Claims Court fees
The small claims procedure operates within the District Court structure and is available nation-wide. It deals with consumer claims up to €2,000 speedily, inexpensively (the fee is €25) and without involving a solicitor. Application forms are available at every District Court.