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Refund, Cancellation and Vouchers - Consumer Rights

Days such as Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries have a tendency to creep up on us. The same phenomenon applies to the office printer; you only pay attention to the amount of ink and paper in the printer when it has almost run out. When it does run out, you reach for the computer rather than for the shopping trolley. The relevant online shop is closer at hand than its physical equivalent - at least mentally. The fact that the product may take a few days or weeks to arrive is of little relevance. What matters is that the problem is solved, at least for the moment. Your stress levels skyrocket again when you realise that Christmas is only a few days away and the present still hasn’t arrived in the mail. If the toner you needed still hasn’t arrived at the office despite the urgency with which you need to print, take a look at the terms and conditions of the purchase. These will include information about the seller’s refund and cancellation policy.

Refunds, Cancellation and Other Things Worth Knowing

Let us assume that that your parcel will still be on the road when the jingle bells are chiming, your daughter is blowing out the candles on her birthday cake or your marriage anniversary is well and truly under way. In this case, knowledge of your seller’s refund policy is essential. An empty printer is not fatal, but a family that does not receive presents on Christmas Day definitely is.

Online Orders: Note Well the Date of Delivery

To find out whether an item will be delivered at a particular date, it is important to note the date of delivery provided to you by the seller. Make sure that there is an exact delivery date available or at least a range of dates between which the item will arrive. If the seller does not deliver the item by the delivery date, a consumer has the right to cancel their order and receive a refund. If a date of delivery is contractually binding for the seller, you may even have a right to compensation. This is particularly relevant on dates such as Christmas, because many online shops give delivery guarantees for important dates. If an item does not come on time and the customer is forced to purchase an expensive replacement, the customer can reclaim these costs from the seller.

To minimise any conflict, it is important to take note of a few key dates before you make an online purchase. Take a look at the seller’s terms and conditions. Which suburb, city and country are they based in? Are they available via telephone? Are there any internet ratings available for their business, and do they have the seal of approval from ‘Trusted Shops’ and ‘s@fer Shopping’?

Refund Policies: Beware the Expiry Date!

In most European countries, the customer has 14 days to consider whether or not they wish to keep a product. This refund window is entirely separate from product guarantees and warranty. Even items without defects may be returned within two weeks. The 14-day period during which you may return a product begins as soon as the customer has received the product. The seller must make the buyer aware of the 14-day deadline. If they do not, the deadline is extended by a whole year!

Refunds for presents can create a bit of a predicament. On the one hand, the giver of the gift wants to procure the gift in time. On the other hand, they want to give the receiver time to exchange the gift for something else. Since the giver has purchased the gift, the 14-day period begins as soon as they have received the product (not when they have given the gift to its intended owner). It may be a good idea to contact the seller about this. Many sellers, particularly online shops, will generally be happy to accommodate your needs. Before Christmas, many sellers increase the legally imposed 14-day refund deadline. In such cases, take a screenshot of the offer as proof in the event of any difficulties. The legally imposed refund period does not apply to items that have been custom-made for a buyer. Tailored clothing, custom-made shoes, photo books, engraved objects and perishable products are not covered. Other exceptions include event tickets, booked holidays and hotel rooms. Blurays, DVDs, console games and CDs must be sealed if you wish to return them.

The Right Refund: Punctual and Considered

The right of cancellation was largely introduced to allow consumers to examine the products that they buy. During inspection, the product must be treated with care so that the seller can sell it if it is returned. For example, you may try jeans on at home or at the shop provided that you wear underwear and wear the jeans for about as long as you would in a change room. You may not wear the jeans over the course of a workday in the office to find out how long they stay comfortable. If a customer returns to the store with a pair of jeans that have clearly been worn, they must still pay for the product. Customer protection agencies recommend that you take photos of sensitive products that could be damaged after you send them back to the seller. The photos will provide proof that you packaged and sent the product in accordance with the general standard of care.

You can return products in person, but this option may be unavailable to you in the case of online shops. First, you must stat your intention to cancel your purchase via letter, email, fax or telephone. Large online shops offer a general cancellation form on their website. It is also a good idea to ask the seller to confirm the cancellation before you send the item back. The customer must pay for the cost of shipping the item back to the seller. However, in many cases online shops will assume this cost voluntarily and have relevant return forms.

What you Need to Know about Gift Vouchers

Gift vouchers are popular not only in cases when presents do not arrive on time. The predicament of the 14-day refund window does not apply. There are two things to take account of: expiry dates and limitation dates. If a voucher has an expiry date, a seller can choose not to accept the voucher after the relevant date. The expiry date is set by the seller. Once the expiry date has passed, the seller must still reimburse the customer with the value of the voucher. After three years, the customer can expect no more favours. The three-year statutory limitation period prevents customers from benefiting from a voucher three years after it has expired.

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