Consumer rights

“I’m new to online shopping. What should I watch out for?”

QI have a smaller gift budget for Christmas than last year. I hope to get my groceries early so I don’t overspend on impulse purchases on Christmas Eve. I plan to shop on the internet on November 25th for Black Friday to get some good deals. However, I haven’t bought much online before and I don’t know which websites to trust. What should I pay attention to?

Stone, Westport

A The first thing to check is which country you are buying from: you have stronger rights if the company is based in Ireland or elsewhere in the European Union. A website with a .ie domain does not necessarily mean that the seller is based in Ireland, so find a physical address for the business – a useful way to do this is to check the ‘About’ section of the site or while bottom of the home page.

Different consumer rights and potential customs charges apply when buying from a company based in the UK or elsewhere outside the EU. If you are buying from an EU seller, they are responsible for your purchase until it is delivered to you (unless you have arranged your own delivery). If not delivered, seller should arrange replacement or refund.

If you buy something online and then change your mind, you have a cooling off period of 14 days from the date you received the item to cancel your order. You have an additional 14 days to return the item for a full refund.

Also check the delivery times of your order: companies must deliver your purchases within 30 days, unless they clearly indicate another deadline before you buy.

If you discover a fault with the product within 30 days of delivery, you have the right to return it for a refund. Some companies may offer a refund, exchange or credit note – this differs from company to company, so check their terms before buying.

Finally, be sure to shop around to make sure your offer really is a bargain. Try not to be too influenced by discounts advertised online; ask yourself if this represents good value for money for you.

Compare prices based on the exact model or product features, and remember that for some online sales you will also need to factor in delivery costs.

‘I delayed closing my Ulster Bank account. How can I start finding a new bank?’

Q I have a current account with Ulster Bank and as they are leaving the market I need to switch accounts in the coming weeks. I put this on the long finger because I don’t know where to start. Can you help ?

Fiona, Athlone

A Try to complete the changeover process as soon as possible, as Ulster Bank has indicated that it intends to start freezing some accounts soon. These are the steps to follow.

Choose a new supplier

Think about what you expect from your new supplier. How often do you withdraw money? Do you need or want access to a branch in your locality? Do you need an overdraft, a joint account or mobile banking? The answers will help you decide which type of checking account is right for you.

Use the comparison tool on our website (ccpc.ie) to help you choose.

Open your new account

Your new provider will tell you how to open an account. This usually involves an application form which can be completed online. You will need proof of identity and proof of address.

If you are considering an overdraft, your new provider will perform a credit check. The new provider must provide you with all the details of your new account, such as your IBAN and BIC.

Prepare to change

Review your bank statements for the past 12 months and list all payments that will come in and out of your new account.

Incoming payments can include your salary, while outgoing payments can include direct debits and standing orders.

To change

Using your list of incoming and outgoing payments, give your new IBAN to anyone who pays into your account, such as your employer or the Department of Social Protection, and to anyone who takes payments from your account by direct debit automatic, standing order or recurring Payments.

Ulster Bank will tell you how to close your account.