Making Cents: Black Friday is an opportunity - but be careful

The Black Friday phenomenon, which rolls around again on November 24, has exploded in popularity in Ireland in recent years, writes Gráinne McGuinness

The Black Friday phenomenon has exploded in popularity in Ireland in recent years, and rolls around again on November 24. In its US home, it is a popular shopping day because it falls the day after Thanksgiving and many people are off work.

However, despite the fact that it is an ordinary working day here, retailers and shoppers have adopted the day with enthusiasm.

It is great to have the chance to pick up some of your Christmas shopping list at reduced prices. However, I asked Áine Collins of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission if customers should be be wary of taking ‘special offers’ at face value.

She said: “Black Friday provides a great opportunity for consumers to find deals, but with so many offers available, it can be difficult to know if you are getting a genuine bargain.”

The commission advises bargain-hunters to do a little work before purchasing. Do your research in advance of the sales, find out the price before the discount was applied so that you know you are getting the best value for your money.

It also suggests doing a little research on both the product you have chosen and the supplier. A bargain might look good on paper, but if it’s not up to the standard you expect, your great deal might turn out to be a letdown.

Increasingly, much of our shopping is done online. As a result, in the last two years the commission has seen a clear spike (23%) in calls to its helpline relating to online purchases at this time of the year.

The most common issues were with delivery, refunds, cancellation periods, and issues with non-EU sites.

One area Collins highlighted was the use of third-party delivery services, which are increasingly popular among consumers shopping online.

Third-party delivery companies are those which provide you with an address to which you can have your purchase delivered from the original seller.

This can be an attractive option for online deliveries as some sellers won’t deliver to Ireland or you may not be able to be at home when the delivery comes.

Ms Collins said: “It is important to note if you use this service to deliver your order then you are entering into two separate contracts — one with the online retailer and one with the delivery service.

“Once the online retailer has delivered the item to the delivery service’s warehouse, the online retailer has fulfilled their contractual obligations and your contract with the delivery service company begins.

“If you are using a delivery service, check their terms and conditions beforehand and see what if any liability cover they provide for lost items.

They are not obliged to provide you with any liability. Some do, but it may be capped at a certain amount.

They may also offer you the option of paying to have a higher level of liability cover for a certain period of time.

It is obviously very important that you know that if anything happens to an expensive gift, it will be covered, so do your homework before you make your final decision.”

Another important point the commission is flagging up for consumers is the difference between EU and non-EU sites.

“If you buy from a site that is based within the EU you have specific rights,” says Ms Collins. “You are entitled to a 14-day cooling off period which in most cases entitles you to cancel the order for any reason, even if you just change your mind.

However, you may have to pay for postage. If the item is faulty, then you don’t have to pay to return it.

“These rules only apply within the EU so, if you are thinking about buying from a site outside the EU, check the terms and conditions, including the returns policy, before you buy.”

Take a good look at any website before purchasing from it. If a website’s web address ends in .ie, it doesn’t necessarily mean the website is based in Ireland. Shoppers should also beware of sites that have only recently been set up.

“Setting up a copycat website to sell fake goods only takes a few minutes and these sites come and go very quickly. This is why it is important to check for site reviews in advance.”

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Lidl is promoting a weekend of Black Friday deals with a range of special offers going on sale on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Much of the products on offer are on electrical goods.

Friday’s headline deals are a 10.1in Lenovo tablet for €149.99 and HP Stream 14-AX004NA Laptop for €229.99 which comes with one year’s access to Office 365.

There is also an LG 43in’ Full HD LED TV for €329.99.

On Saturday, it has another Lenovo tablet on offer, this time a 7in for €59.99.

It is also selling a Canon PowerShot SX430 IS camera with case for €149.99.

The 20 megapixel camera can also record video and offers simple access to wifi functions.

Another Canon product is on offer on Sunday. Lidl has a Pixma MG3650 WiFi all-in-one inkjet printer for €34.99.

Other products on offer over the weekend include Bluetooth radios, speakers and earphones, and a Garmin fitness armband.



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