Consumer – Consumer Contracts
General information on Contracts
In this section you will find general information on consumer contracts, including deposits and cancellations. We also give you information on the most common questions we are currently receiving from consumers in relation to contracts as a result of COVID-19.
What is a consumer contract?
A consumer contract is a legal agreement between you and a business where you buy goods (e.g. a pint of milk or a jumper) or digital content (e.g. downloading music or a computer game) or a service (e.g. booking a hotel room, entering into a mobile phone contract, hiring an electrician). Consumer contracts fall under contract law, and will have terms and conditions that both the consumer and the business must comply with. It is important to know that contracts can be verbal or in writing or they can arise from your actions (i.e. buying something in a shop) but they are binding on the parties involved, meaning that both sides have rights as well as responsibilities.
When you buy goods and services, you are sometimes asked to pay a deposit e.g. if you order furniture or book a wedding venue. When you pay a deposit, you are paying a percentage of the price of a good or service, and it means you are entering into a contract with the business. In general and in normal situations you will be entitled to your deposit back:
- If the business cannot deliver the goods or provide the service you agreed to purchase.
- If the business cannot deliver the goods or service on the agreed delivery date and the new delivery date is not acceptable to you.
However, given the current situation we are in due to COVID-19, we would suggest that in the first instance you talk to the business to see if you can make an alternative arrangement that suits you both. If not, you should try and negotiate with them to see if you can get some or all of your deposit back.
If, after following the above step, you are not happy with the outcome and you have bought instore and the business refuses to return your deposit, you may have to take legal action. If your claim is less than €2,000, you can use the Small Claims procedure to try and resolve the issue. If you place a deposit or part payment online, you have a right to cancel the contract and seek a refund, with some exceptions. For more information see our buying online section.
If you change your mind about the good or service and decide not to go ahead with the contract, the business may not be obliged to refund you your deposit. If it is not set out in the terms or conditions or you did not agree anything at the point of sale, the business is not obliged to refund you the deposit.
In general, different types of contracts will have different terms and conditions around cancellations. So in the first instance, you should check the specific terms and conditions in relation to cancellations, and follow the necessary steps. If you think the business is not acting within the terms and conditions of the contract, you can make a complaint to them. Following this, if your issue is not resolved, you may have to take legal action. If your claim is less than €2,000, you can use the Small Claims procedure to try and resolve the issue.
Please note this information does not cover change of mind situations that happen shortly after buying goods or services. For information in these situations please link to the following: if you buy in store and if you buy online.
Late last year I signed up to a sports package with my TV provider. But now all live sport has been cancelled. I want to cancel as the service is not being provided. I am five months into a 12 month contract. What are my options?
In general all TV packages will have terms and conditions and there will be specific terms and conditions for the cancellation of your service. The cancellation terms will be different depending on if you are still in your fixed term contract or not. In your case you are five months into a 12 month contract so are still within the fixed term of your contract. Your terms and conditions will set out what steps apply in this case. However, given the situation we are in due to COVID-19 some TV providers are offering options to, for example, pause the live sports service until they are in a position to air live sports again. So it is worth contacting them to see if they are providing this option or other options that may suit you.
If your TV provider is not offering alternative options that suit you, you will need to follow the steps set out in the terms and conditions on how to cancel. Cancelling your contract could result in cancellation charges.
If you think the TV provider is not acting within the terms and conditions of the contract you can make a complaint to them. Following this process if your issue is not resolved you may have to take legal action. If your claim is less than €2,000, you can use the Small Claims procedure to try and resolve the issue.
I purchased a ticket for a concert which was scheduled for next month. The concert is now not going ahead. The ticket seller has informed me that they are not refunding the money as the concert will be rescheduled later in the year but this does not suit me. Am I not entitled to a refund?
Firstly, we would suggest that you check the terms and conditions of the ticket seller. If they are not on the ticket, they are usually on the ticker seller’s website, and there will be specific terms and conditions around re-scheduling or cancellations or both.
If you are entitled to a refund, you should also check how much of a refund are you entitled to, for example the face value of the ticket only excluding any additional fees you paid, or a full refund including any fees you incurred. Also, check the ticket seller’s website for procedures for handling refunds – for example, see whether:
- Your refund request has to be received within a certain number of days
- You have to return the tickets to the point of purchase in a particular way
- Ticket holders themselves are responsible for finding out about the new date and time if the event is being rescheduled.
If you think the ticket seller is not acting within the terms and conditions of the contract, you can make a complaint to them. Following this process, if your issue is not resolved, you may have to take legal action. If your claim is less than €2,000, you can use the Small Claims procedure to try and resolve the issue.
I have to cancel my wedding on foot of Government advice as a result of COVID-19. Am I entitled to a refund of the deposit we paid?
Under contract law, deposits are generally non-refundable. However, in the first instance, you should check the terms and conditions of the contract you agreed with the venue to see what it states in relation to deposits, and in what circumstances (if any) it may be refundable. This will also apply to deposits paid to other suppliers for the event/wedding, for example: music, florists, delivery services, etc.
If the deposit is non-refundable, you should discuss other options with the venue to see if they can accommodate an alternative arrangement, for example an alternative date. Given the exceptional circumstances, it’s likely that most venues and suppliers are dealing with several other couples who have been affected by the COVID-19 situation, and will try to accommodate you. If rearrangements are made and deposits or payments are discussed over the phone, be sure to follow up with an e-mail asking the business to confirm the new arrangement in writing.
If you have wedding insurance, it may be possible to make a claim on the policy, for example for lost deposits or other costs incurred as a result of having to cancel your original date. However, this will depend on the terms and conditions of your policy and when the policy was purchased. Remember to contact your insurer as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Last updated on 9 October 2020