Consumer Champion: Clearing up the clutter at home? Here's how to sell it online for a handy profit
Have an old Playstation you haven't used in ages; a sofa that's just taking up space; or a dress you can't wear to yet another wedding?
Rather than store them, why not sell them?
The online second-hand market is flourishing, growing by 215pc in the last four years with one sixth of the adult population now having accounts. That's according to research from DoneDeal, which shows the sector is worth €4bn to the economy and is growing faster than retail sales in shops.
Over 50pc of activity is on mobile and it's an entirely new way to shop.
This method simply didn't exist a few years ago, when 'second-hand' items ended up simply being dumped, but it just shows one person's 'pre-loved' item is another's joy.
This week I'm looking at how to set up an account, what it costs and how to make the most of it.
Of course there's a double opportunity, because finding stuff to sell starts with de-cluttering your house - it's a win win.
The most popular categories for selling unwanted goods online are motor parts (48pc); household items (16pc); electronics (7pc); and clothing (5pc). Selling is free on many sites (see table above), or a set fee of a few euro to place the ad.
There are sometimes additional costs for 'bumping' your item to the top of the search list or keeping it there for longer.
With eBay the cost structure is different - you pay a percentage (10.7pc) of the selling price on top of the insertion fee with the 'Buy Now' function.
For the general auction, section insertion is free. With Done Deal and others, some ads are free, others charged at a flat rate of €1-€5.
However, do bear in mind, if you're a buyer, that the same high street consumer protection rights do not exist.
Where you can return an item to a shop (online or high street) if it's faulty, you cannot be guaranteed of this when purchasing through a private seller, according to the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission.
As a seller, you don't want a black mark, so don't put up rubbish, and be clear on the description if something's missing or soiled.
For those selling, here are my top tips:
l Set up a PayPal account for the money side. It's safe and free and means you can send and receive without fear.
l Take plenty of pictures - most sites allow you upload a few.
l Describe the item as if you had no pictures. Include size, colour, dimensions, details.
l Check similar items to find a fair price to sell for.
l Pick the category carefully or your item won't get seen.
l If you have the buyer coming to your house, have someone else present and the item ready to go.
l Cash is fine, but for more expensive items, a bank draft is better. Call the issuing bank to verify it - an honest buyer won't mind.
l If you're meeting elsewhere make it a public, well-lit venue.
l Never give out personal or bank details online.
l Never correspond with a buyer except through the selling site - otherwise you may fall victim to a common 'phishing' scam.
The website will never disclose your personal email address.
Remember, if you're still unsure, newspaper classified ads remain a great way to sell your goods quickly - the Herald charges around €10 for five days' insertion.
Switching sends the right message
One of the best ways to discover how we fare on utility bills is to compare Ireland with the rest of Europe.
Eurostat's latest independent research on gas and electricity pricing makes for shocking reading. Ireland had the third highest costs of all member states last year and showed the third highest utility increase, with a 5.4pc rise in electricity - the EU average was just 2.9pc.
One key reason is taxes and levies - cash our Government pockets and which comes in at over 16pc of the bill. Of course, the other is customer apathy. If suppliers think they can get away with a price they'll charge it, knowing many of us are too lazy to bother switching or think it's too much hassle. So, it's good to see a new player in the market. Panda Power are offering electricity contracts targeting, in particular, Energia, the market leader. It will be interesting to see how it aids competition.
I switched both my accounts to a new provider last summer and, with the contract up, I'll be looking at it again this year - there's no loyalty in this market and switching is as simple as a phone call and a check of your meter. Nobody comes to the house, or has to install anything.
Checking out sites like Bonkers.ie or uSwitch.ie means you can find out for yourself whether going with two separate providers or bundling your utilities offers better value. So switch - they won't get the message otherwise.
When it comes to bouncy castles it's time we adults acted our age
I couldn't suppress a giggle at the news from VHI Swiftcare clinics that over 200 people were treated for injuries on bouncy castles and trampolines last summer, many being adults that should have known better.
Limb fractures are, of course, no laughing matter and I venture to suggest that drink was involved on occasion. It seems we need a bouncy castle for every occasion these days and while kids should be kept with their own age group on them, the adults need to act their age and find something else to do.