and the Consumer
Over the last thirty years
consumer issues have become more prominent as a result of activities by
consumer interest groups in particular. The emergence of consumerism has
placed greater pressures on business to come up with better product and
service offerings. The media has also played its’ part in promoting consumer
issues with specific consumer programmes on TV and radio. As a consequence,
legislators both in Ireland and at European Union level have brought forward
new legislation to improve and protect consumer rights. Business has responded
by improving customer service levels particularly in the area of after
sale. A consumer is a person who buys products or services for personal
use. A good consumer should always shop around to make comparisons
for best value. A consumer should not just focus on price, as quality and
durability are also essential consideration in making a purchase.
Consumer Protection and
Inferior quality goods or poor
The use of misleading advertisements
such as dubious price reductions
Overcharging through higher
prices in certain situations
Lack of awareness of consumer
legislation by both retailers and consumers
Poor after sales service when
pursuing warranties or guarantees
Failure to read the small print
on policy documents
Unsuitable trading hours for
The adoption and upgrading
of legislation on the statute books have helped to improve the lot of the
consumer. The consumer should always remember the term ‘caveat emptor ‘meaning’
let the buyer beware. However, the consumer is better protected than in
There is still a long way
to go as illustrated by bank scandals relating to overcharging. Various
statutory bodies such as the Ombudsman and the Director of Consumer Affairs
will need more resources.
Small Claims Court
The aim of this court is
to be consumer oriented and to be accessible, speedy, inexpensive and fair.
If you are looking for a remedy for relatively small amounts of money you
can take the case to this court. Unlike the District Court there is no
need for lawyers and cases can be conducted speedily and cheaply. If a
problem cannot be resolved at this court it will then be processed at District
Court level. Enforcing awards has so far proved the biggest obstacle.
From Swedish the term means
‘watchdog’. The task of the ombudsman is to investigate complaints from
the general public who feel that they have been unfairly treated by certain
public bodies. The state’s ombudsman gets involved on behalf of the customer
where there has been inaction and inefficiency in dealing with complaints
to public bodies and government departments. An ombudsman is regarded as
a mediator or conciliator and acts like a referee in these matters. An
ombudsman has the power to demand information or a file from the complained
body. He/She can require an official of the said body to attend a meeting
with the ombudsman to answer to their actions concerning the complaint.
An ombudsman also now exists for credit institutions and for the insurance
industry. The credit institutions and the insurance industry pay for the
cost of this service.
The Consumer Information
This act requires that
all advertisements to be legal. Prohibiting false or misleading advertisements
about prices, goods and services protects consumers.
It is a criminal offence
to give false trade descriptions regarding goods and services. An example
of a trade description ‘Pure Gold’.
Director of Consumer Affairs
It is a criminal offence to
give false or misleading statements as to services provided. For example
a ‘24 Hour Shop’ that is not always open.
It is a criminal offence to
mislead consumers regarding present, past or recommended prices. For a
claim to be true, the price must have been charged at the previous price
for twenty-eight successive days during the previous 3 months.
Advertisements should not be
The Office of Director of Consumer
Affairs was established. The Director has the power to investigate consumer
complaints and institute proceedings to prosecuteoffenders.
The Sale of Goods and Supply
of Services Act 1980
Has the power to prosecute
offenders under the 1978 Act
To investigate complaints from
consumers regarding advertising and prices.
To promote high standards of
Be familiar with EU directives
in the area of consumer legislation.
Request advertising to be changed
if they are not compliant with the law.
Inform and educate the public
on consumer matters.
Prepare and publish an annual
This law was introduced
to update the Sale of Goods Act 1893. As the title of the Act illustrates,
it did not take account of service providers. This was dealt with under
this particular law with a number of other matters.
1.If 30 days have elapsed after the consumer has given written notice to
the sender of the fact that the goods are unsolicited.
Goods sold should be of merchantable
Goods sold should be fit for
the purpose intended
Goods bought by description
must correspond with the description
Goods sold by sample must correspond
with the sample
The retailer is responsible
for putting everything right
Guarantees given in the sale
of goods are regarded as additional benefits that will not affect one’s
Consumers are entitled to choose
from a refund, credit note or replacement for faulty goods
For a contract of service,
the provider must have the necessary skill and use material that is of
For Hire Purchase (HP) agreements,
the store and the HP company are jointly and severally liable for faulty
In the case of unsolicited
goods, a consumer may keep them in the following circumstances:
2.At the end of six months, if the sender has not collected the goods and
if the consumer has not prevented collection.
Data Protection Act 1988
This law was enacted to
deal with privacy issues emanating from the widespread availability of
information stored on computer about individuals and businesses.
Under the law the office
of Data Protection Commissioner was established, with responsibility for
supervising and monitoring the provisions contained in the legislation.
The commissioner will also be responsible for preparing and publishing
an annual report. The main provisions are as follows:
Legal Rights of individuals
The information must be obtained
and processed fairly.
The information must be accurate
and updated on a regular basis.
The information must be maintained
for one or more specified and lawful purposes.
If information has been maintained
for a particular purpose, then it must not be used or disclosed
for any other purpose.
Information must not be inadequate,
irrelevant or excessive.
Information must only be maintained
for the time that it is required.
All personal data must be kept
safe and secure, with no unauthorised personnel being allowed to access,
alter or destroy it.
A copy of a person’s
data or file must be presented to them on receipt of a written request.
Individuals have the right
to access their personal data.
Individuals have the right
to update or delete inaccurate information.
To make a complaint to the
Data Protection Commissioner concerning any breaches of the Act.
To make a claim for compensation
through the courts relating to any damage suffered as a consequence of
mishandling data maintained on computer.