Research shows online consumers may be missing out on their rights

November 18, 2016

  • Just over half of consumers are not aware that their rights when buying from EU websites are stronger than when buying from outside the EU
  • Only 29% of consumers can correctly identify the length of the 14-day cooling-off period
  • 33% of consumers unaware they can return unwanted goods bought online

With 24-hour access at a click, online shopping makes life much easier for consumers. An extra bonus is the additional consumer protection rights you have if you buy online – after all, it isn’t easy to judge a colour or know if it fits by looking at a screen.

As the year’s busiest online shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are fast approaching, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has released new research into consumers’ awareness of their rights when buying online. The research coincides with the launch of an information campaign to help consumers know their rights when they buy online.

51% of consumers in Ireland, according to the CCPC’s research, are not aware that there is a difference in their rights when buying from an EU website compared to non-EU websites. EU consumer law, particularly the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), gives consumers in Ireland strong protection so that they can shop online with confidence. However, the CRD only applies to purchases from online businesses based within the EU.

As many as a third of those surveyed, did not know that they have the right to simply change their mind and return the goods they purchased. In addition, only 29% of those surveyed correctly identifying the length of the 14-day cooling-off period. This is particularly relevant to anyone who has experienced shopper’s remorse or found that their purchase wasn’t quite what they imagined it to be. This also means that many consumers may not be availing fully of the unique rights available to them when they shop online in the EU.

Along with providing consumers with the opportunity to return unwanted goods, the CRD provides protections if things go wrong. The CCPC’s research shows that 52% of those who bought clothing/footwear online experienced difficulties with their purchase. The most common difficulty experienced was a delay in goods being delivered, with 32% of consumers who purchased clothing/footwear reporting this problem. Consumers should know that under the CRD, unless they agreed otherwise, retailers must provide a refund if a delivery does not arrive within 30 days.

Fergal O’Leary, Member of the Commission said, “Online shopping has obvious benefits and is becoming increasingly common particularly around days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Our research sought to understand if consumers were aware of the additional consumer rights they have when buying online from sites based in the EU. While it is positive to see that there is a high level of awareness amongst consumers in relation to certain aspects of their rights, in order to get the most from buying online, it is important that all shoppers fully understand what they are entitled to under consumer law, particularly if things go wrong.

The CCPC’s website has a dedicated section where consumers can find a host of practical information about their rights as well as information on what steps to take if they have a problem with an online order.”

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