Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this weekend is expected to see more online shopping in Ireland than ever before.
With the country in its second Covid year, and shortages advertised in a number of areas, the European Consumer Centre (ECC Ireland) expects that many of us will try to get much of our online shopping done before next month.
The first point to make here is that local retailers are continuing to suffer reduced footfall as a result of the pandemic.
For that reason, everyone is being encouraged to turn Black Friday into Green Friday, and shop local. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy online, but if you do, don’t default to the big international sites.
So many Irish shops have dramatically improved their online offerings over the last 18 months. Look here first.
And when you do buy online, don’t let over-the-top marketing and the feeling of urgency overwhelm your commonsense. Before you tap in your credit card number, make sure that the bargain is genuine.
A couple of years back, consumer magazine tracked 83 products placed on sale during Black Friday, just to see if the sales did actually provide any value. The result? Some 95% of these products were available for the same price or cheaper within six months of the sale, and 61% were the same price or cheaper six months before Black Friday.
ECC Ireland recommends that you track the price of the product to make sure that the final, on-sale price represents a genuine, net reduction after tax and shipping.
ECC Ireland warns that the deals you’ll be offered this weekend are unlikely to be best deals of the year: "Particularly this year, when more people migrated online for their shopping, the price reduction generated by increased sales volumes means that discounts are getting better and more frequent."
The consumer agency recommends that consumers compare prices and retailer offerings for the same product in order to get the best deal.
It’s also a good idea to aim for a superior-value product that is more sustainable and durable, which means you ultimately get more out of the purchase.
You may also consider a product with a low carbon footprint, which means you save on shipping and do your bit for the environment.
Beware the ‘while stocks last’ tag. When you see this, it usually means that only a very small quantity of a particular product is available, which means that most consumers will walk away disappointed.
At this time of the year, consumers are inundated with promotional ads for heavily discounted deals, some of which are genuine, but some of which are not. Moreover, some of the sites on which these deals are offered may not themselves be the genuine article.
Make sure you shop on secure websites with verified payment processors, and use a credit card or third-party payment app. This will help eliminate the risk of falling victim to online fraud and will allow you to avail of ‘chargeback’, which can be invoked if a transaction is bogus.
Consumers should check that ratings and reviews for promoted products are genuine and stay away from superlative, unsupported claims such as ‘best in’, ’number one for’, ’the premier destination’, ’the leading manufacturer’.
If you’re buying from a site you haven’t visited before, look for reviews of that site before you commit.
These days, it can sometimes be hard to know exactly where the site you wish to buy from is based. Remember, not all .ie websites belong to companies based in Ireland. Legitimate international businesses based in the UK or outside the EU can trade with Ireland using a.ie domain.
To avoid misunderstandings, just check exactly where the business is based in the ‘About Us’ or ‘Contact Us’ tab. Conversely, if shopping from Ireland on a .com site, be sure to make a purchase on the .ie version as T&Cs will be different for each market.
In terms of establishing where the order is actually shipping from, note that many companies have their shipping handled by the manufacturer (dropshipping) or a third party (outsourced distribution). While this is standard practice in global commerce, it is misleading to deliberately hide the company details, or sale and shipping terms that might affect a consumer’s decision to buy.
Businesses based here and in the EU/EEA must comply with all EU consumer protections. Also, EU websites are required to tell customers about any additional costs before a purchase is made. These rights are not guaranteed when consumers are dealing with businesses trading from elsewhere.
Currently, when you buy from a trader based outside the EU, there are extra charges that may apply and therefore your purchase may cost more than you thought. According to Revenue, if your goods have a customs value (including cost, transport, insurance and handling charges) of €22 or less, you don’t have to pay Customs Duty or VAT.
If the intrinsic value (the value of the goods alone excluding transport, insurance and handling charges) is more than €150, then you will have to pay Customs Duty. Before ordering from a UK trader or any other trader based outside the EU, check what VAT or import charges you may have to pay on top of the original cost of the goods.
- Consumers resident in Ireland who have a dispute with a trader also based in Ireland should contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission at CCPC.IE or 01 4025555.
- For consumers resident in Ireland who have a complaint about a trader based outside the EU/EEA, the most reliable redress option is to raise a transaction disputed through the bank’s chargeback procedure. Contact your bank for details.
- For any queries in relation to Vat/import/customs charges on deliveries from anywhere outside the EU (including Britain, excluding Northern Ireland), consumers should check with the Irish Revenue Commissioners at revenue.ie.
- Consumers resident in Ireland who have a complaint about a trader based in another European Union country, Norway, Iceland or Britain and have tried to resolve the matter directly with the trader to no avail, should contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland. All the information on cross-border online shopping consumer rights in the EU, as well as ways to obtain redress when something goes wrong, can be found on eccireland.ie or call 01 8797620.