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Shoppers should soon get a lot more rights - here's how

Consumer laws are about to get a shake up.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated 14.07

EXPIRY DATES ON gift cards will be banned and faulty goods will automatically qualify for refunds under a major revamp of consumer-protection laws.

But services bought online from companies plying their trade from outside Ireland and the EU will remain untouched under a customer rights bill which the government claimed would “bestow major new rights on consumers”.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the changes were mainly targeted at two things: improving consumer rights for online purchases and clearing up gaps that had emerged in regulations over the years.

The suggested changes, which won’t be brought in until at least mid-next year, include:

  • A ban on gift-card expiry dates
  • A standard 30-day refund period on all faulty goods
  • The right to have substandard services fixed or refunded
  • Statutory rights for people downloading or streaming digital contents like music and apps
  • People given goods as gifts to have the same rights as those who bought products themselves 

The laws, if passed, will be a significant strengthening of existing customer protections. In the cast of refunds for faulty goods, for example, there are currently no hard-and-fast regulations for when faulty goods should be repaired, replaced or refunded.

A ‘natural imbalance’

Bruton told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke there was a “natural imbalance” between consumers and retailers, and the changes would fix issues like gift voucher expiry dates that “really irritate people”.

Legislation in this field really hasn’t been changed in Ireland since the 1980s,” he said.

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Fine Gael Conferences Bruton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

However the rules would only apply to companies subject to Irish law, which meant firms selling digital products from overseas would still fall outside the net.

There is a lot of European legislation of course, but this is strengthening a lot of the provisions and we are making very significant changes,” Bruton said.

The proposals will be put out for consultation over the next three months with charges targeted to start in mid-2016.

First published 9.47am

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Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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