How to stop the Grinch ruining your Christmas shopping spree
Your spending on gifts could leave you more out of pocket than you expect if things go wrong — so do your research, writes Louise Mcbride
THERE are now only 23 shopping days to Christmas — and many of us will spend more on gifts and goodies over the next three weeks than we do at any other time of the year. At this expensive time, it’s important to ensure that your money is well spent — and that you’re covered if things go wrong. Here are some rules of thumb which should keep you on the right track.
Some airlines (such as Aer Lingus) allow the name on a gift voucher to be changed after you have bought it. Others, however, aren’t as flexible. Ryanair’s gift vouchers are not transferable and must be used by the person they’re issued to.
Read the terms and conditions of any gift voucher you are planning to buy — and understand how easy, or difficult, it will be for the recipient to use it in full. Buy a voucher with a long expiry date — or ideally, without any expiry date at all. Find out if the recipient of the voucher will be hit with fees if he doesn’t it use up within a certain time. For example, although One4all gift cards don’t expire, there is a monthly inactive fee of €1.45 which kicks in after the first year and which applies to money on the card which is not used up within the first 12 months. The weak sterling is likely to encourage more shopping trips to the North in the run-up to Christmas. Sterling hasn’t reached parity with — and is still stronger than — the euro though.
This is worth remembering if planning some Christmas shopping in the North because you might not save as much as you expect to. Remember, too, that as the UK isn’t due to leave Europe under Brexit until the end of March 2019, you still have the same consumer rights in the North this Christmas as you would if shopping anywhere in the EU. “Since the Brexit referendum, we have heard that some UK traders are claiming that EU legislation doesn’t apply to them,” said Nee. “This isn’t true. For the time being, you are covered by EU consumer legislation in the UK.” Therefore, if you buy something in the North and find there’s a fault with it when you come back home, you are still entitled to a repair, refund or replacement – depending on the fault. People are often more susceptible to scams in the run-up to Christmas — particularly if they have left their gift shopping until the last minute and are therefore in a rush to buy. The ECC is warning shoppers to be on the alert for a recent ‘supermarket’ scam — where they receive fake text messages claiming to be from a supermarket.
“The message will tell you that you are one of a small number of lucky shoppers who has won something — such as a phone worth €999 which you can get for €3,” said Nee. “But you could end up in a subscription trap if you fall for it.” These scams will typically ask for your personal and bank details. Never hand over such details following unsolicited contact. The ECC knows of a case where a woman who was duped by this scam had €3 taken from her account initially for the ‘discounted’ phone — followed shortly afterwards by another €44. “The woman then got onto her bank and stopped any more money being taken from her account,” said Nee. “Be careful about any unsolicited messages which you receive.”
Don’t shop on your smartphone either. “Smartphone shopping can lead to impulse buying and purchases you wouldn’t have made if you did your research properly or from your desktop computer,” said Nee. “You can’t do much research on your smartphone.”