Buying online

When you buy from a business based in Ireland or another EU country the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) gives you strong protections, such as certain information you should be given and your right to cancel if you change your mind. These regulations do not apply in certain circumstances such as buying from another consumer, if you buy from a business outside the EU or when you buy certain goods or services.

Top tip
If a website ends in ‘.ie’ it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s based in Ireland. Before you shop online, check to see where the business is based. This information is usually found on the ‘contact us’ or ‘terms and conditions’ page of a website.

Geo-blocking Regulation

Geo-blocking is where businesses make it difficult or don’t allow consumers from another country to buy goods and services from their website in any of the following ways:

  • Make it difficult for you to access their website
  • Allow you to access their website but don’t allow you complete the transaction
  • Insist at the end of the transaction that you have to use a credit/debit card from a specific country
  • Reroute you to another part of their website especially for consumers outside their location/country, which usually gives different prices than those offered to local consumers

The Geo-blocking Regulation, which came into force on 3 December 2018, bans the practice of blocking access to websites and re-routing without your prior consent. This means consumers in Ireland have the same access to goods and services as local consumers in other EU/EEA countries.

The right to clear and accurate information

The Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) sets out the information you should receive before you buy a product or service. This information helps you to make an informed decision before you buy or enter into a contract and removes any surprises such as hidden charges. The information you should receive varies depending on how you buy, for example online, by phone, at your doorstep or in-store. It is important that you read this information before agreeing to buy something.

A business must give you certain information before you buy goods or services. It should be in clear and simple language. The list includes information on:

  • the main characteristics of what you are buying
  • the contract duration (if applicable)
  • the total cost and any additional charges that you have to pay

The information should be given to you in a way that is relevant to how you buy, for example, if you buy over the phone, this information ideally should be given to you over the phone.

Did you know?
It may be difficult for a business to give you a set price for certain services such as waste collection, gas and electricity, because charges can vary every month depending on your usage. However, in cases like this the business must make it clear to you how they will calculate your bill.

For example, when you sign up to a new waste collection service there may be a number of different charges depending on your usage. You may have an annual charge, different costs for different bins (recycling, waste, compost) as well as additional charges if you go above any weight limits there are. It would be difficult for the business to tell you what the cost will be on a weekly or monthly basis as this will vary, but they must give you all the information on the charges that apply before you agree to the service.

The CRD regulations give you protections after you have bought goods or signed up to a service online, over the phone, at your doorstep or by post. These protections give you a statutory right to cancel (sometimes called a cooling-off period), timeframes for delivery if none are agreed and timeframes for refunds from a business when you exercise your right to cancel.

Your right to cancel
Changing your mind about goods
Changing your mind about a service
Diminished Value
Exclusions from the cooling-off period
Delivery timeframes
Refund timeframes

Your right to cancel

The regulations give you 14 days to change your mind. However, the timeframe for when this 14 days begins depends on whether you bought goods or signed up to a service. In the case of buying goods, the 14 days begins on the day you receive them. In the case of a service, it begins on the day you conclude the contract. If the business doesn’t tell you about your right to cancel the cooling-off period can be extended to a maximum of 12 months.

Top tip
Always make sure to put your cancellation in writing to the business either by email or post. This will act as proof if you run into problems with them later.

Changing your mind about goods

When you buy goods online, over the phone, at your doorstep or by post you have 14 days from the date you receive the goods to notify the business that you want to cancel – though there are some exceptions to this. After you notify the business that you are cancelling, you have a further 14 days to return the goods to them. During this time you are responsible for keeping the goods you bought safe and in good condition, if you don’t you may have to pay for diminished value.

Top tip
You do not have a 14 day right to cancel if you buy goods or services in a shop.

Changing your mind about a service

When you agree to a service online, over the phone, at your doorstep or by post you have 14 days from the date the contract is concluded to notify the business that you want to cancel. In simple terms, this means you have 14 days to cancel from the date you agree to the service. If you received any equipment within this timeframe such as a modem, TV box etc. you have a further 14 days from the date you cancelled to return any equipment.

Did you know?
  • The business should give you a cancellation form which you can use to cancel during the cooling- off period.
  • You do not need to give a reason why you want to cancel.

Diminished value

If you want to cancel your order and return goods, you are responsible for taking care of them until they are returned. If you don’t you may have to pay for diminished value. This means that if the goods are damaged or lose value as a result of you handling them beyond what is necessary to check the features, functionality, characteristics, fit etc, you may have to pay for part or the full cost of the item.

Exclusions from the cooling-off period

For most items you buy online, over the phone, at your doorstep or by post you will have a cooling-off period but there are some exclusions to this. Some examples include:

  • Perishable goods such as food
  • Goods that are personalised or custom-made, for example, a t-shirt with your name on it, jewellery that has been engraved, or furniture built to your specification
  • Newspapers or magazines, although you do have a right to cancel subscriptions
  • Gaming or lottery services
  • Items that have been unsealed or which cannot be returned for hygiene reasons, for example, underwear, cosmetics, earrings
  • Tickets for events with a specific date or time – for example, concerts or sporting events
  • Reservations for hotels or holiday homes for a specific date or period of time
  • Car rental

You still have the right to clear and accurate information. This means that the business should tell you before you buy if the item or service falls within the exclusions.

Delivery timeframes

How quickly an item should be delivered to you depends on what you agreed when you bought it. For example, if a website says delivery will be within 3-5 days and you buy it on that basis then both you and the business have agreed to this. However, if no delivery timeframe is agreed when you buy then the regulations state that it should be delivered within 30 days. If the business does not deliver it within the timeframe agreed with you then you have two options:

  • you can agree a different date that suits you or
  • you can cancel the contract and get a refund

Refund timeframes

The regulations set out a number of rules that businesses must follow when giving refunds once you have cancelled within the cooling-off period. They should refund you without undue delay and not later than 14 days after you cancelled the order. Bear in mind that when you are returning something, a business can hold on to your refund until they have proof that you have sent the goods back.

Did you know?
If you are returning items under your rights outlined in the CRD, you are also entitled to a refund of the standard cost of delivery. This is only if you are sending your full order back. You may have paid extra for express or tracked delivery but you are only entitled to claim back the cost of standard delivery.
Digital downloads
Extra charges
Buying vouchers on-line
Online Auctions
Buying Medicines online
Buying from a website outside the EU
Buying from an EU website
Disputing a card transaction (chargeback)

Digital downloads

Digital downloads is a separate category under the regulations and they are not considered a service or a good. If you want to download something within 14 days of buying it, you will have to give your approval that by doing this you lose the right to cancel. If you don’t give your approval, the 14 day cooling-off period still applies, but you won’t be able to download your digital content until this period has ended.

When you buy digital content, you must clearly choose to begin downloading or streaming before you are responsible for any costs involved. Also, if you are charged for this service this must be made clear to you before you make a payment.

Did you know?
When you sign up to a service such as streaming or gaming, you are also agreeing to the business’s terms and conditions. This means you are responsible for any purchases made by you, or by someone else using your account. For example, if you have games downloaded and your child makes in-app purchases with or without your permission.

Extra charges

The business must get your permission for any extra charges that are on top of the cost of the main item before you buy something or are bound by a contract. For example, when you buy airline tickets, the airline must get your permission for any extras you might add, such as insurance, by asking you to opt in rather than opt out.

Buying vouchers online

When you buy a voucher online there are a number of factors that need to be considered in order to know if the voucher is covered by the CRD regulations. Table 1 below sets out what type of vouchers are not covered by the regulations and Table 2 sets out what type of vouchers are:

Not covered by the Regulations Covered by the Regulations
  • Business to business sale, eg where a business buys a voucher for another business
  • Private sale, eg consumer to consumer
  • A free voucher
  • Contracts that are exempt from the regulations, eg a voucher for a betting company
  • Vouchers within the scope of the E-Money Directive and Payments Services Directive
  • Any electronic voucher that is limited to a single retailer or shopping centre
  • Paper vouchers

Generally, any electronic voucher that is not limited to a single business or shopping centre falls within scope of the E-Money Directive and Payment Services Directive. For these types of vouchers the CRD regulations will not apply. The terms and conditions of the voucher will state whether the business is regulated by the E-Money Directive or the Payment Services Directive. You can also check on the Central Banks Register to see if the business is listed.

Online Auctions

If you buy from a business through an online auction and have no opportunity to view the goods in person before or during the auction, the cooling-off period applies. However, if you buy through the same online platform from another consumer, you do not have a cooling-off period or other consumer rights.

Public auctions and online auctions are different. A public auction is where goods or services are offered in a competitive bidding process to consumers who attend or are given the opportunity to attend the auction in person. While you will have the right to information, you will not have the right to a cooling-off period.

Buying medicines online

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), is responsible for supervising the sale of non-prescription medicines online.  Only suppliers registered with the PSI are authorised to sell these medicines online. The rules apply to non-prescription medicines only – prescription medicines are not allowed to be sold over the internet in Ireland. Find out more on the PSI website.

Buying from a website outside the EU

If a website ends in ‘.ie’ it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s based in Ireland. If you buy something from a business that is based outside the EU you don’t have the same protections, particularly if something goes wrong after you buy.

It is important that you check the geographical address of the website. You can usually find it on the ‘contact us’ or ‘terms and conditions’ page of a website. Before you buy from a website outside the EU search for information online, such as reviews.

If something goes wrong after you buy from a website outside the EU, the website’s own returns and refunds policy will apply. So make sure that you have read and understood their returns policy before you buy.

You may also have the option of reporting the matter to Consumers International if the business you’re having problems with is a member country. It works with its member countries on issues that affect consumers in multiple countries and across national borders.

Did you know?
If you buy something from outside the EU you will pay VAT if the value of the items plus shipping comes to €22 or more. VAT must be paid on imported items at the same rate that applies in Ireland for similar goods. You can find more information about VAT on the Revenue website .

Buying from an EU website

If you buy goods or services from a business based outside Ireland but within the EU, then EU consumer legislation applies. If you experience difficulties with a business based in another EU/EEA country, then you should contact the European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Dublin. The ECC Network offers consumers advice on their rights when shopping in EU/EEA countries. The ECC Network also offers a dispute resolution service and where necessary, ECC Ireland can help consumers by making contact with the business in question through the ECC centre in the relevant country.

Disputing a card transaction (chargeback)

Chargeback is a when you request that a transaction is reversed following a dispute, in order to secure a refund for something you paid for.  Chargeback works by the bank reversing the transaction and putting the funds back into your account. This could be an option in cases of goods not arriving at all or where the business has stopped trading. See more information on chargebacks.

 Can I cancel part of my online order?

I bought boxes of wooden flooring online from an Irish business. However, after laying the flooring I found I had a couple of spare boxes unopened. Can I return them and get a partial refund?

The CRD regulations don’t expressly provide for a partial withdrawal i.e. to cancel part of your order that you don’t need. But this doesn’t mean you and the business can’t agree on a partial cancellation. In this case, it is at the discretion of the business.

Do I have the right to cancel when I order online but collect in-store?

I pre-ordered and paid for a computer game online and went to collect it in-store on the day it was released. I’ve taken it home but found another family member had already bought one for me for my birthday and now I have two of the same game. I have not opened it. Do I have the right to return the game I bought?

As payment for the computer game was made online rather than in-store, you have the 14 day right to cancel. You should speak with the store to arrange a refund.

Am I entitled to receive something I ordered online but is since out of stock?

I ordered a laptop online through an Irish retailer, but have since been notified by them that the laptop is out of stock. They have also told me they will not be getting it in stock again and have refunded my money but I don’t want this, I want the laptop.

When you bought the laptop you would have agreed to the terms and conditions of the website. These terms and conditions may state that a contract is not formed until the goods are dispatched or if there is an error on the website you will be refunded etc. You are entitled to a refund but there is no automatic entitlement to receive the laptop.

Are special order goods exempt from the right to cancel?

I bought curtains for my living room online. The website gave me some pre-set options for the size and colour of the curtains. I’m afraid that I may change my mind when I get them. Will I be entitled to a cooling-off period if I change my mind after I receive them?

The cooling-off period will apply in these circumstances. If you are picking from the standard options offered by the business the right to cancel will apply. However, if they were custom-made to your specifications, the cooling-off period would not apply

How long should it take a business to deliver and online order?

I ordered a dress from an Irish retailer online six weeks ago but haven’t received it yet. They didn’t give me a delivery date. What are my rights to get a refund?

Unless a delivery date has been otherwise agreed, the business must deliver the dress no later than 30 days from the day you bought it. If you want to cancel, you should inform the business that as they have not delivered the dress within the 30 days you are seeking a refund under your consumer rights. You should be given a refund without undue delay.

Am I entitled to a refund of the delivery cost when I am returning an item?

I ordered shoes online and paid for regular delivery, but when I received them I didn’t like them. I emailed the retailer to let them know I would be returning the shoes but the retailer is refusing to refund the delivery charge I paid.

When you exercise your right to cancel, the business must refund you for the item as well as the cost of standard delivery without undue delay and not later than 14 days from the day you tell them about your decision to cancel the contract. You should contact the retailer again and request a refund of the delivery charge you paid.

Do I have to pay for the cost of returning something I bought online?

I ordered clothes online but when I got them they didn’t fit me properly. I’m going to return them under my cooling-off period but the retailer says that I need to pay to return them.

There is nothing in the regulations that says that a business has to pay for the cost of returning items when a consumer exercises their right to cancel. Under these circumstances, you are likely to have to pay for the cost of returning the clothes.

Can I return something I bought online that doesn’t fit me?

I ordered a jacket online which I received. I have since changed my mind and informed the retailer in writing the same day I got the jacket that I wanted to cancel and return it. A week has now passed but I have heard nothing. The jacket is unopened. What should I do?

You have a 14 day right to cancel from the day you received the goods. You must notify the business of your intention to cancel within these 14 days. You have written to the business advising them of this, and you have 14 days from that date to return it. As seven days have now passed, you have another seven days to return the goods and receive a refund. In this case, you should return the goods as soon as possible.

How long should it take to get my refund?

I returned a bag that I ordered online last week. I returned it within five days of getting it and the retailer has confirmed they have got it back. But I’ve yet to receive my refund.

The business is required to refund you without undue delay and not later than 14 days after you informed them of your decision to cancel. We would suggest that you follow up with the business about the refund and give them evidence that you have returned it, if possible. You can ask at the post office for proof of postage (it’s free), when returning something.

Do I have the right to cancel a hotel booking that I made online?

I made a booking on a hotel website last night but my plans have since changed. I understand that if I buy something online then I have a 14 day right to cancel, is this correct?

There are certain exclusions for the cooling-off period in the CRD regulations, including booking accommodation for a set period of time. In this case you don’t have a statutory cooling-off period and will be bound by the hotel’s policy on cancellations.

I upgraded my TV package over the phone but now want to cancel, can I?

I’ve had a package with one of the main TV companies for many years and last week I upgraded to avail of a special promotion on a new price plan and 12 month contract. I’ve since changed my mind and want to switch to a different company, do I have a right to cancel?

As you agreed a new contract over the phone, you do have a cooling-off period. You should contact your current provider, preferably in writing, and notify them that you want to cancel your contract.

Can I try something on that I bought online and then return it?

I tried on a dress that I ordered online but I accidently got fake tan on it. Can I still return it?

When you buy a dress online you have the opportunity to inspect it to the same extent as you would do if you were in a shop – this includes trying the dress on. If you damage or soil the dress, you may be liable for diminished value of the goods. In this particular case, you can still exercise your right to cancel however you could be liable for diminished value of the dress due to the fake tan.

My delivery has been delayed, do I have to accept a new delivery date?

I ordered toys online for my son’s birthday and the business has told me there will be a delay with delivery due to demand and that it will take an extra week for it to arrive. Can I insist on getting the toys by the original date agreed?

As there has been an agreed date for delivery, if the business does not deliver the toys at the time agreed with you, you have a number of options available to you.

  1. You can request that they make the delivery within an additional period of time.
  2. You can cancel your order and request a full refund.

As the regulations do not set out rules specific to your circumstances, if you want the toys delivered within the original time you should speak to the business to see if there’s anything they can do for you.

What are my rights to return make-up that I bought online?

I ordered lipstick online and when it arrived I opened it but don’t like the colour. The retailer won’t take it back because I opened it.

Not all items bought online are covered under the right to cancel. The CRD regulations do not apply to certain goods and services. One of the exemptions are goods that were sealed for health and hygiene purposes, for example, makeup. If you open the lipstick and ‘unseal’ it, you will not have the right to cancel under the CRD regulations. However, the retailer’s own terms might allow you to return it, so check those out.

Can I cancel a voucher that I bought online?

I bought a voucher online from an Irish airline a week ago. I have not used the voucher do I have the 14 day right to cancel?

As the voucher is limited to one business the right to cancel under the regulations will apply.

Haven’t found what you're looking for?