Am I entitled to a refund or exchange?

June 29, 2022

If you bought an item in a shop, but change your mind about it and decide to return it, you might expect that you’ll get a refund or exchange straight away.

But, it’s not always so straightforward, as can be seen from the consumer queries below. You can find out more about your consumer rights when it comes to refunds and exchanges in our shopping section.

Question 1

The day after I bought a new toaster, I brought it back (unopened) to the shop to exchange it for a different model. I had lost the original receipt but I had a photo of it on my phone. The shop said they couldn’t accept a photograph as proof, and I would need the physical receipt for exchange. Is this allowed?


Under consumer protection law, if you change your mind about an item you bought in a shop, the shop you bought the item from is not legally required to:

  • accept a return
  • or facilitate an exchange for another item

Whether the shop will allow change of mind refunds or exchanges depends on the terms and conditions of its store policy. The terms and conditions may also say what forms of proof of purchase the shop is willing to accept. The shop is not legally obliged to accept a photograph, or copy of the original receipt as proof of sale.

Your next step should be to check the terms and conditions on the receipt, or on the shop’s website. Look for any references to change of mind returns and what forms of proof of purchase are acceptable to the shop. You may then wish to contact them to discuss which options might be available to you. If you paid by card, the shop may be happy to accept a copy of your credit or debit card statement showing the transaction.

Failing this, you can pursue the matter further using the Small Claims Court procedure if:

  • you feel that the shop is acting outside of their terms and conditions of sale
  • they refuse to engage with you
  • your claim is for €2,000 or less

Question 2

I bought a second-hand smartphone in a local shop recently. After a couple of days, it started switching off by itself and the screen would often freeze. What are my rights when it comes to second hand goods? Am I entitled to a refund or exchange if it’s not working?


When you buy something from a shop, new or second-hand, you are protected by consumer protection laws. Under consumer law, the item must be:

  • of merchantable quality
  • fit for the purpose intended
  • as described

You cannot expect a second-hand item to be of the same standard as a new one. But the quality must be of an expected standard, given the price you paid. So, if the smartphone you bought is:

  • faulty
  • or does not meet the standards outlined above

then you are entitled to either:

  • a full refund
  • a repair, or
  • a replacement smartphone

Consumer law does not currently set out exactly which option you are entitled to when returning a faulty item. So, it is up to you to negotiate with the shop. Contact them as soon as possible and explain the issues you are experiencing. Outline how you would like the issue to be resolved and negotiate a suitable solution.

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