MORE and more Clare people are moving their shopping habits online, choosing to purchase items from the comfort of their own home, rather than making their way to the shops.
Online sales have been growing steadily year on year and are expected to be an even more integral part of the marketplace in 2018. Recent phenomena like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have moved across the Atlantic and are now a firm fixture of the festive season in the Banner County.
The trend towards increased cyber shopping was highlighted in recent statistics released by the Ennis-based Retail Excellence Ireland, showing that customers browsing for goods using their mobile phones in December increased by 60% on last year.
However, now that the tinsel has been taken down, what do you do when there is a problem with the product you bought online in the lead up to Christmas? According to Paul Woulfe, manager of the Clare Citizens’ Information Centre, there are a number of options available when it comes to resolving disputes about online purchases.
He explained that, at this time of year, they receive regular calls from people in the county who are having issues with products bought via the internet.
“Citizens’ Information advises that, if you are not happy with an item you have bought online, you should always contact the trader first to make a complaint. If you are not satisfied with their response, you may be able to get help,” he said.
According to Mr Woulfe, if your complaint is against a trader here in Ireland, you can contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission for advice. Meanwhile, if the trader is in another EU member state, you can contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland (ECC Ireland). “ECC Ireland may contact the trader and try to resolve your dispute. If this is not successful, ECC Ireland can advise you on other options.”
There is also the option of the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform.
“The ODR platform is operated by the European Commission for use by consumers living in the EU. It aims to help consumers and traders settle online disputes, without the need to go to court. You use the platform to find a neutral third party, called a dispute resolution body, to handle your dispute. You don’t have to pay when you submit a complaint using the ODR platform. However, a dispute resolution body may ask you to pay a fee, if it agrees to handle your case. When a dispute resolution body agrees to handle your case, it will tell you the rules, including how much you have to pay. The outcome can depend on the type of dispute resolution body and their rules and procedures. If you disagree with the outcome, you might be able to appeal the outcome or take your case to court.”
David Campbell of Retail Excellence Ireland has stressed the importance of the online sector, urging local retailers to embrace the chance to reach out to consumers, both in Ireland and further afield. “With over €600 billion expected to be spent by European consumers online in 2018, it is clear that retail is now a huge global opportunity for retail entrepreneurs.”
Acknowledging the strength of the sector, Retail Excellence Ireland has also urged shoppers to support retailers in Ireland by buying from those with a physical store presence here.
By Jessica Quinn