How long is my purchase guaranteed? 1 year? 2 years?

This e-mail came through from a reader in the last week or so:

I bought a Sony Playstation 3, 60 Gb model for my sons, which has stopped working two weeks ago.  I have just found receipt which confirms that it is less than 2 years old.  We heard recently that all goods are covered by 2 year statutory warranty.  (This legislation emanates from EU Directive.)  Can you provide more information about this Irish legislation and also tell me what our rights are with the Playstation 3.. My sons saved quite a while to purchase same.

First things first, the specific organisation for allegedly responsible for overseeing the legislation the reader is referring to here is the National Consumer Agency. If they have any specific follow ups, or wish to progress their complaint any further, these are the people to contact.

However, the reader is correct that there is EU legislation – Directive 1999/44/EC, Article 5 – that provides for a minimum guarantee of 2 years on products bought. The regulation was eventually put into place by Statutory Instrument No. 11 of 2003, signed into effect by the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney.

The actual text of the EU regulation, Article 5, states that:

Time limits

1. The seller shall be held liable under Article 3 where the lack of conformity becomes apparent within two years as from delivery of the goods. If, under national legislation, the rights laid down in Article 3(2) are subject to a limitation period, that period shall not expire within a period of two years from the time of delivery.

It is also worth noting though that according to the European Consumer Centre Dublin, provide this extra bit of relevant information:

Also important for consumers is that after this period of six months they are still protected against faulty products. In Ireland within six years from delivery of the goods the trader still can be held liable for any lack of conformity. However, it is then up to the consumer to prove that the lack of conformity existed at the time of delivery.

There is, unfortunately, a bit of ambiguity in these rules and legislation – as referred to by the last sentence of the ECC Dublin comment above. This is to do with the fact that the “lack of conformity” (i.e. the fault) must have existed at the time of purchase.

It is assumed in legislation that any fault found in the first 6 months is assumed to have existed at the time of purchase. However, there is a burden of proof on either side subsequently to prove that any fault that becomes visible actually existed at purchase, and didn’t develop because of use, age, maintenance, storage issues etc.

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Mean garage wouldn’t even pay for petrol for replacement car

Irish News of the World

May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane


When I left my car in to be repaired in a garage in Kildare last week they gave me a replacement car that turned out to have no petrol in it whatsoever – the red light came on before I even got to the petrol station.

When I complained, they told me I was lucky to get a car at all because they normally charged for one, and they refused to pay for any petrol for the time I had the car.

Could they refuse to give me a replacement car like that, and not give me any petrol? Am I supposed to sit there for a full day waiting for them to fix the car?


A garage is not obliged to provide a replacement car to their customers – but in the past it has been a goodwill gesture that garages have shown.

Given that things are tougher these days and garages are making less money selling cars, I have noticed myself that many garages will now charge for car rental if they provide a replacement car instead of letting customers have one for free.

In these tougher times unfortunately, it looks like you’ve found a garage who have taken this stingy attitude an even cheaper level by not even providing the petrol.

While the garage might see this as being prudent in counting every penny, if you rightly avoid using the garage again in protest, they’ll soon find that every customer counts more than every penny.

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Can NTL give me free upgrades I don’t want and charge to downgrade?

Last week I received this e-mail from a reader complaining about a problem that I’ve only recently begun to follow up on myself as it affects me personally as well. Here’s the e-mail:

I want to find out about what I can do about what NTL are doing to me at the moment. In some ways you might say that I have nothing to complain about, but I’m not happy.

They recently upgraded both my TV and broadband packages – originally at no extra cost. They tell me that they’re doing this as part of improving the service that they provide to their customers. I get more channels (I think – I don’t really care if I get more kids channels) and I get faster broadband. I can’t even tell that I get faster broadband, so big deal.

After a couple of months, they then came along and started to charge me more for the packages that I’m getting.

When I started to check about saving money recently, I thought that I could downgrade my packages again back down to the versions that I was on previously.

The version of the service I was on now have different names though since since technically I’m on the package name (with extra benefits) that I asked for when I signed up to them last year.

This is the bit that really annoys me – when I try to downgrade my package, they are telling me that they’re going to charge me €10.

Can they do this? I only want to get the same service that I asked for and agreed to pay for originally, but now it’s going to cost me more to not change what I’m getting now, and will charge me more to go back to what I originally asked for.

There must be some consumer protection laws that they’re breaking in backing me into this costly corner? I tried contacting the Consumers Association, the Consumer Agency and COMREG about this, but its been 6 weeks now and none of them have answered me.

This was my response:

First of all, the main organisation that could do anything about this situation is the National Consumer Agency – if it were the case that NTL were breaking any consumer legislation. But as regular readers would know, I wouldn’t have any expectation that that would happen anyway.

The Consumers Association of Ireland is a pressure group that has no powers. COMREG, though they oversee NTL for phone and broadband services, isn’t responsible for overseeing their TV service – and anyway COMREG only deals with industry, not consumer related complaints.

So, to your complaint. I have been investigating this very issue myself recently as the same thing has happened to me.

As far as I have been able to find out so far, there is nothing that NTL have done here to break any consumer related legislation.

Looking at the three stages individually, you can see this a bit clearer:

1. They gave you an increased package for the same money. Albeit for a short period of time, you got more for your money. Something to be applauded if steps 2 and 3 didn’t actually follow.

2. They increased their prices. Since we don’t operate in a price controlled economy, businesses are allowed increase their prices as they chose. So, technically, there’s nothing in what NTL did here that’s against the law.

3. They’re charging you to downgrade your package. This is something that I’m still following up more on.

To be charged a fee by any company for them to do anything, you must be informed about that fee up front. It must be in their terms and conditions, or if they’re later added to their terms and conditions, you must be informed about those changes.

This is where I believe that NTL are taking the piss. This downgrade charge, as far as I can find out, was never in their original contracts – I signed up in 2003 and the charge wasn’t there.

With the recent availability of the infamous “boxes” that people used on NTL,it was quite common for people to downgrade their packages to the cheapest possible because they were getting everything for free – but just needed the basic NTL subscription.

In order to try to plug the hole in their revenues before they could come up with the necessary security to make these boxes useless (as they’ve done now), I reckon NTL brought in those downgrade charges.

I don’t remember ever seeing any notified change to their terms and conditions to announce these new charges. Yet, if you ring them, they’ll insist that you must pay it.

I don’t believe that they can do this. I’m going to follow up on this further, but in the meantime you should contact the Consumers Association of Ireland to get pressure put on NTL to get their T’s & C’s confirmed and updated, and follow up further with the National Consumer Agency to get them to confirm if these charges are not allowed based on the contract that you signed up to originally.

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Value for Money complaints

Irish News of the World

May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Value for Money complaints

Historically, we Irish haven’t been all that keen on complaining. We normally wouldn’t like to draw attention to ourselves. For that reason, if we get poor service or a dodgy meal in a restaurant for example, we’re more likely to keep quiet rather than make our feelings known.

But I think that’s changing. More and more people are following up on dodgy quality products, bad service, and poor value for money. With money getting tighter and tighter these days, we’re starting to realise that if we don’t let business know that there’s a problem that we’ll end up wasting our hard earned cash.

Just in the last week, a large number of people sent in complaints to restaurants, garages, hotels, and shops and included on their complaint. As well allowing me share these complaints with you, it also puts a little extra pressure on the business through knowing that the complaint will be made public.

But there are a few things that people should always be doing when making their complaints to make sure they’re effective. In fact, if done properly, you can either save your money, or possibly even make some money.

Rules of Complaining

There are a couple of key rules you should follow when making a complaint that will help you be successful.

As soon as you have a problem, make your complaint. If you can, make your complaint in person straight away. It is also important that you complain in writing also – sent by registered post to make sure the business can’t deny receiving the complaint.

It is essential that you’re clear in what you’re complaining about. Provide as much detail as you can about what went wrong, when it happens and who was involved. Don’t be shy to ask for names of staff for example.

And finally, when you make your complaint, make sure that you explain what you want the business to do in order to make everything right for you.

In explaining to a business how they can fix things that you’ll be able to either save your money, or potentially make something for the future. If you’ve explained your problem clearly, genuinely and politely, and the business wants to keep your business, then they should be open to doing something to keep you happy.

Wherever you have a problem with a company you should complain to them to either get your money back or to get a discount or voucher for the future. Whether it be your bank, your credit card company, your mobile phone company or your management company, if you’re not happy, let them know. Here’s a few examples of how you can make a few quid from complaining.


Say you got a poor meal in a restaurant. Instead of meekly paying for it and saying nothing, ask to speak to a manager. Let them know that the meal wasn’t good value for money. You could ask for the meal to be taken off your bill, or maybe get a free meal or bottle of wine to the next time you visit. You could even ask for a voucher.


What happens if you buy a product you’re not happy with from your local supermarket? Do you bring it back and ask for a refund, or just throw it out and forget about it.

Bring the item back to the supermarket the next time you’re there and ask for a refund, or replacement. Explain how unhappy you are and maybe they might even throw in a few vouchers.

If the local store doesn’t help you out, write to the head office explaining the situation and letting them know that their local store wasn’t very helpful and that if they don’t follow up that you’ll be taking your business elsewhere. You might find that you’ll get some vouchers or a gift card worth more than the original product, just to keep you happy.

North – South multiples

I’m not advising that everyone do this, but it’s a money maker none the less. A reader bought several items of clothing in a store in Northern Ireland significantly cheaper than they were in Dublin.

When she discovered some problems, she went to the version of the store in Dublin and demanded a refund. She got her refund, but at the more expensive Dublin prices rather than the cheaper Northern Ireland price. A nice little earner to get away with.


If you’ve been away on a holiday but you weren’t happy, you should immediately make your complaint as soon as you get home. Many tour operators and holiday companies will hope that you put up and shut up long before they think about giving you any compensation.

Don’t let them away with it – fight for your due compensation by writing to head office. Persistence is the key to success with holiday complaints particularly if you’re case is legitimate, well put and politely argues. So keep at it. At the very least, you could get a voucher or a discount on your next years holidays.

Complain to the ESB

Something that a not a lot of people know, but if you complain to the ESB and for various reasons, if they don’t reply, they’ll give you €40. If they don’t respond to your complaint within 10 working days, they’ll pay you €40. If they promise you a refund for something, and they don’t within 10 days, they’ll give you an extra €40. Worth bearing in mind if you do have a problem with your electricity supplier.

Stick with it

With all these complaints, at some point, the companies will have to do something for you if you keep at them. If you have a legitimate complaint, you’d hope they’d do something sooner rather than later.

Remember though, it’s your money that you’re trying to get back, so stick with your complaints until you get what you’re looking for.

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Centra will stop giving receipts in order to “be green”

This e-mail question came through from a reader of recently. It’s an interesting twist that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else.

I was in my local Centra this evening and they had a notice up saying that they would be phasing out the provision of receipts from their tills over time “in the interests of being greener”.

Can they do that? I though it was obligatory that shops provide receipts for purchases. Any information you can provide would be appreciated.

I had to do a bit of checking on this, and here’s what I could find out. First of all, to clarify – the Centra signs referred to in the readers e-mail did actually specify that if shoppers wanted a receipt, they only had to ask for one.

As far as I can find out, shops are not legally obliged to give every customer a receipt. Fair enough, most big stores do, but lots of smaller convenience stores don’t already.

However, what shops are obliged to do is provide you with a receipt if you ask for one.

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National Consumer Agency – need more staff, or just need a clue?

The Annual report of the National Consumer Agency for 2008 was release recently. To cover up the fact that they’re not actually doing much at all to enforce consumer legislation, the mantra now is that they need more staff.

Would these staff actually enforce consumer legislation and prosecute offending businesses, or will they be doing more pointless grocery shopping around the country and up north?

Maybe they could work to improve the quality of staff they have working for them at the moment. One staff member in the NCA actually told a reader that they were not responsible for enforcing European consumer legislation and that their regulatory framework was limited to the 1980 Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act.

Clueless muppets!

The role of the NCA is to enforce Irish consumer legislation (all of it, and not just the Sale of Goods act above) and any European consumer legislation transcribed into Irish law.

Maybe now we’ve actually found out why the fuckers* do nothing? They don’t actually know what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place.

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Toolin Travel – what you’re not reading in the news coverage

I’m not sure if this is relevant with regards to Toolin Travel, but if you’ve booked a holiday with them but your departure is from outside of the Republic of Ireland, Belfast for example, then you may not get your money refunded.

That would depend on whether Toolin Travel were also registered with the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK (the equivalent to the Commission for Aviation Regulation here in Ireland).

Given that it’s a Dublin based travel agency, I guess that most people would be buying packages flying from Dublin, but given that some packages might be cheaper with a Belfast departure, there could be some people affected by this.

To read more about this type of scenario, read here – Beware when booking package holidays! Click here to read the official story from the Commission for Aviation Regulation website.

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Customer reaction to poor customer service and mistakes

There’s a right way and a wrong way to react to poor customer service and mistakes, and this letter from a couple of weeks ago in the Irish Independent highlights a few things done the wrong way in the face of E-Flow toll problems.

Sir — Your eFlow letter, (Sunday Independent, May 24, 2009) prompts me to relate my experience. I drove Southbound on the M50 on Bank Holiday Monday, May 4.

I returned Northbound. that evening, and paid the €6.00 toll on the website. Payment Number 440269.

Some days later, I received a request for payment of €6.00., which I ignored. Two weeks later, I received Unpaid Toll Notice, requesting €47.50, and advising that if this was not paid within 56 days, an additional charge of €104.50. would apply. I phoned and eventually got talking to a human (Tony). I explained the situation. He was not interested, and said that failure to discharge the Toll Violation Notice, would result in prosecution. As far as I am concerned I have a receipt.

They can eFlow off.

Martin Dunne,

Malahide, Co Dublin

First things first, if you have a problem with customer service or any issue with a company, you should not ignore it. I realise we’re dealing with E-Flow here, but I would hope that a quick phone call on the day when the next bill was received could have sorted all out.

If you get a bill from anyone, whether it’s paid or unpaid, you should always follow up to confirm that you’re understanding of the current situation (i.e. bill is paid) is the same as the company itself – and therefore they can update their records accordingly.

On another note, despite any and all provocation, you should also be polite when you’re dealing with customer service people. In this particular situation, I can’t say how the interactions went, but I’m willing to guess that if the writer of the letter is willing to have their “e-flow off” statement attributed to themselves in a national newspaper, then things might not have gone swimmingly between himself and Tony over the phone.

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Mortgage companies, Insurance companies and re-build costs – what’s going on?

You’ll have read three posts already today (here, here and here) about how insurance companies and mortgage providers are trying to force Irish consumers to overstate their rebuild costs for their home insurance policies.

For the insurance companies, I can see the motivation – if the rebuild costs are overstated, then the risk is higher, and therefore they can charge higher premiums at a time when they’re losing money elsewhere.

I’m kind of at a lost as to why mortgage providers are insisting that rebuild costs are boosted over and above the values they should actually be according to the Society of Chartered Surveyors (SCS) rebuild costs documentation.

In the mean time, there are a few questions that I have on this whole thing (but remember, I love a conspiracy, so none of these might have any relationship to reality):

  1. Cross selling – if the mortgage provider and the home insurance provider are the same company, then you could understand that one division of the organisation that is unlikely to be making much money these days (mortgages) is doing its best to boost revenue for other divisions (insurance).
  2. Past profits – The focus these days has been for people to find out the rebuild cost rather than the actual value. I wonder in the past how many people insured their homes at the market value – and therefore provide an overstated windfall for insurance companies. So, not only are the losing money now on the premium difference between rebuild costs in the past, and rebuild costs now – but they’re actually losing on the difference between rebuild costs today and the market value at the height of the property boom.
  3. What happens when there’s a claim – If my mortgage company insists on a rebuild cost of €400,000 for my house, but the actual cost is only €290,000, and my house burns down. If the insurance company pays out €400,000, and my house is rebuilt for €290,000 – who gets the €110,000?

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear from you.

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Another mortgage company looking to overstate re-build costs for insurance

Here’s a comment posted recently by a reader which is linked to todays topic – rebuild costs for the purposes of insurance policies:

I recently renewed my home insurance with a different provider and amended the building sum insured in accordance with the Society of Chartered Surveyors (SCS) Guide to House Rebuilding Costs published.

I forwarded details to my mortgage provider of the renewed policy and received a response suggesting I reassess the current building sum insured.

I responded and advised that I had used the SCS’s Guide.

I received a further response from the mortgage provider advising that in order to change the building sum insured for your property, the mortgage provider will require a current valuation report drawn up and sent to us by your Valuer/Estate Agent.

The Financial Regulators – Guide Home Insurance Made Easy,on Page 4 advises:

“You should insure your home for the amount it would cost to rebuild it. This is called the reinstatement value. It is different to the market value of your home, which is the amount you could get if you sold it. The market value includes the value of the land your home is built on and the location it is in, but the reinstatement value of your home only covers the cost of rebuilding it. To get a rough estimate of the cost of rebuilding your home, use the home-building cost figures in the ‘Guide to House Rebuilding Insurance’ available from the Society of Chartered Surveyors”

Requiring a valuation report to amend the reistatement value of a property is an onerous and costly requirement.

I have lodged a formal complaint with the mortgage provider and I am still awaiting a response.

So basically I am required to over insure my property or get a valuation report which would cancel the savings I have made on updating my insurance policy!!

The requirement above to get an actual market valuation rather than using the SCS rebuild costs valuations is particularly strange.

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