Following a surge in online selling during the COVID pandemic, sales seem to be plateauing. Despite recent events selling online had become an integral part of the retail experience. This had caused increased rights and legal issues for the consumer and the vendor.

Irish consumers spent €5 billion online in 2017, with €3 billion of that going to on-line retailers abroad. This is according to the Consumer Market Monitor (CMM), published by the Marketing Institute of Ireland and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. This represents 13% of retail sales. According to AIB Bank figures this increased to 14% in 2018.

Shopping online offers great choice, value and convenience, but the concerns remain that you do not have the same consumer rights when shopping online as you do when buying on the high street.

The truth is, in a lot of cases, your rights are even stronger once you buy within the EU. If you buy something online in the EU, you are covered by consumer legislation just as if you buy it in person in a store. Irish consumers are protected by the Sale of good and supply of services act 1980.

If you shop from websites based outside the EU your European consumer rights will not apply and you may face unexpected customs and tax bills.

EU online shoppers enjoy a range of rights under EU consumer legislation including a cooling-off period, which gives you the freedom to change your mind after you have made a purchase.  These rules don’t just apply to online shopping but also cover other distance purchases, such as those placed by phone or mail order.

What are your rights when shopping on-line?

The right to change your mind.

When you shop online you have the right to a “cooling-off” period of 14 calendar days where you can withdraw from the contract and return your purchases to the seller. You do not have to give any reason but bear in mind you may have to pay for the cost of returning the goods.

The right to clear information.

EU online sellers must provide you with detailed information, including their contact details, the main characteristics of the product or service and the total cost of the product, including all taxes and delivery charges.

The express right to refund for delayed or non-delivery.

Your purchase should be delivered within 30 days unless you agree otherwise with the seller.

Right to redress in case of faulty goods.

If an item you bought online turns out to be faulty or not as advertised, you have the same legal rights as if you had bought it in person in a store.

When are you not protected by consumer law?

If you are purchasing goods from a private individual rather than a company, the transaction is not covered by consumer legislation. A ‘consumer’ transaction involves a private individual buying goods or services from a seller acting in the course of his business, trade or profession; as opposed to two individuals acting in a private capacity.

Consumers should also bear in mind that if you buy from a trader based outside the EU/EEA, European consumer legislation may not be applicable. Under European legislation traders are required to indicate their geographic address on the website.

What if things go wrong?

Further information on your rights when goods are faulty is available on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s website.

If you are not satisfied with the seller’s response you may be able to take a claim to the Small Claims Court.

If you made your purchase using your debit or credit card you may be able to get your bank or credit card company to reverse the transaction. This is called a chargeback. You should contact your card provider as soon as possible. Give them details of the transaction you are disputing and request that they follow it up. Most card schemes offer full chargeback rights to consumers, but with some debit cards schemes you cannot use the chargeback facility if you did not receive the goods. Further information on chargeback is available on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s website.


NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff, whose numbers can be found on our website,