Consumer Champion: Head to the summer sales safe in the knowledge that your rights are protected
Well, we didn't quite get the glorious summer we hoped for . . . yet. So, now that we're officially 'mid-season', it's a great time to de-clutter your wardrobe and fill the gaps from the sales - already in full swing as retailers took a look out the window and saw cloud and rain.
This week I'm giving you some tips on emptying, and re-filling, your wardrobe. I've just gone through the first - a painful exercise - and am gearing up for the second as lovely flimsy tops, swimwear and sandals are being flogged ahead of the autumn season intake. Yes, my number one top tip is to buy for next year.
You may be lucky and get a stunning August out of it, but if not, what harm in picking up summer bargains now for the heatwave to come in 2016?
Unless you're a complete label freak, it will still be just as fashionable next year. If all else fails, I'm also concentrating on your rights when returning sale items - are they the same or do you take a hit with the discount?
You have nowhere to put new clothes until you make space. My top five tips are:
1. Get some boxes - piles of clothes are dispiriting and will put you off. Label them 'Keep', 'Maybe' and 'Dump'.
2. Chuck everything on to the floor. Yes, all of it, even shoes. Separate into three sections - the stuff you wear all the time, occasional/going out wear and items which you think you'll wear but never do.
3. Clean your wardrobes, remove half the hangers and get rid of the dust balls.
4. Put back all the 'Keep' items, storing by type (tops, skirts, dresses). Put the 'Maybe' back too, with the proviso that if it isn't worn for six months it gets chucked. Get rid of the 'Dump' leftovers immediately, either by chucking out, donating to charity shops or gifting to friends. Don't wait or you'll waver.
5. Store seasonal items in clear plastic, labelled boxes as beach/summer/winter or whatever and put away.
There's good news - your consumer rights during sales are exactly the same as they are at any other time of the year.
The discounted price does not mean discounted rights in store or online. However, some shops insist on treating customers differently during sale time. While they're within their rights to offer different prices on different goods, refuse you trying stuff on or stick discounted items on a separate rail, they are not allowed to refuse, for example, exchanges or refunds on sale items.
Often you will see a sign to this effect and think it applies - it doesn't, and it's illegal, unless it has the caveat "Your Statutory rights are not affected" also posted. What this means is that if the item is faulty, not as described or not fit for purpose, you have exactly the same right to a refund, repair or replacement as if you had paid full price.
See the table for other issues that can arise during sales, and bear in mind that according to consumer law, if the shop has posters promoting a discount "40pc off"), then a 'reasonable' amount of items must be available at that cut - not just a single pair of jeans at the back of the shop.
Shops may ask you for proof of purchase when returning - this does NOT have to be the receipt. Your bank statement, showing the transaction, is perfectly sufficient.
When buying online within the EU, your rights are even stronger. You can return for "change of mind" within 14 days and get a full refund within 30 days.
See www.consumerhelp.ie or www.eccireland.ie for rights.
Be careful valuing your property
What with all the brouhaha over Irish Water, it seems the Property Tax hasn't had a look in lately, so I thought I'd bring you up to date with that other dreaded charge. Next year is the next valu- ation date for properties, but a lot has changed since 2013 when it was introduced.
Some €305m has been collected this year - a 96pc compliance rate, which must make Irish Water weep. The fact that Revenue wields a much bigger stick has something to do with that.
Nearly 63,000 payments were taken by mandatory deduction from wages/social welfare, while 1,000 people have been issued with sheriff's summonses for non-payment. House valuations for the next round of taxes will have risen considerably, so people can expect to pay more from next year.
However, the four Dublin local authorities have each reduced the tax by 15pc, so that will offset it somewhat.
But Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (left), mindful of a backlash in an election year, has ordered a report into the effect that "price developments" will have on the tax. Its author, Dr Thornhill, will report in a few weeks' time.
It is up to individuals to value their property early next year by checking the Property Price Register for similar sale prices or asking local estate agents.
Revenue has challenged 8,200 valuations so far. You have been warned.
Clerys will not honour your gift card - but there may still be help
After their shoddy treatment of workers, the owners of Clerys don't intend helping customers either.
Those with gift vouchers to spend will find them useless now. However, don't forget if the voucher was paid for by a credit or debit card it may be possible to get a refund through the bank's Chargeback insurance system, which can be claimed on when a company ceases trading.
Contact your card provider/bank (or ask the person who gave you the voucher to contact theirs) and set a claim in motion.