Know your consumer rights when buying online


When you buy online, you have the right to the same protections under consumer law as buying in a shop.

Online shopping is at an all-time high, no more so than at this time of year. Buying online offers more choice, is convenient and allows customers to make purchases from the comfort of their own home, saving time and effort. CSO figures indicate that “Almost seven in ten (69%) internet users purchased goods and/or services online in 2020, an increase of six percentage points on 2019”. This trend has continued into 2021.

When you buy products or services online you are entering into a contract called a distance contract. A distance contract is where you buy a product or service online, over the phone, by mail order, or from a door-to-door salesperson. With this type of contract, you do not enter into the contract in person and you cannot check the products before you buy. Because of this, you have additional protections under EU law.

Mary Murtagh, Development Manager based in Waterford Citizens Information Centre explains “When you buy online from a seller based in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU you have 14 calendar days to change your mind and cancel without having to give a reason. This is known as the ‘cooling-off period’. If you bought a product online your 14 day ‘cooling-off period’ starts when you get the product. The cooling-off period does not apply to certain purchases. Examples are leisure services such as hotel bookings, car rental or concert tickets or if the product was made especially for you. For more information check out our website”

When you’re shopping online it is always important to do your research and pay securely. If you are worried about whether you are buying from an authentic website, research the company to make sure it’s a legitimate business.

You should check:

  • Contact details such as phone number, email, and physical address. Beware of websites that only have a contact form and no other contact information.
  • Online reviews, to find out about other people’s experiences. Don’t just use one source of reviews as these could be fake. Check reviews on social media channels or independent online resources like Trustpilot.
  • Terms and conditions, so you know exactly what you are agreeing to.
  • The website is secure by looking for a closed security padlock symbol in the browser window bar (where the website address is located). Click on it to check for an encryption certificate. The website address should begin with ‘https://’ – the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
  • For spelling or grammatical mistakes which are a sign of scam.

There are a number of scams circulating where fraudsters are pretending to be couriers and seeking payment for customs duties. Always be sure to verify texts or emails are from who they say they are by phoning the business directly. Couriers give you the option of paying cash on delivery for duties owed and this may be safer. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please contact the Gardaí.

Citizens Information Centres are funded by the Citizens Information Board. They provide free, impartial and confidential information, advice and advocacy services to the public on social services, rights and entitlements.

Information Officers in our Citizens Information Centres throughout County Waterford are available to answer any queries you may have about consumer rights, or any related questions. We are available from Monday to Friday, our centres are still staffed and we are assisting clients by phone and email and have limited face-to-face appointments and drop in service. We can be contacted at our Offices in Waterford City on 0818 07 6580 and 0818 07 6560 and Dungarvan on 0818 076550 and [email protected] or visit our website, which is packed full of useful information.


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