SHOP­PING SEA­SON

How to be sen­si­ble with Christ­mas spend­ing — Your Money,

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Sunday Business -

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.

KNOW WHERE YOU STAND ON DE­LIV­ER­IES TO VENUES OUT­SIDE YOUR HOME

Third-party de­liv­ery ser­vices, which al­low you to get items de­liv­ered to de­pots or other col­lec­tion points near your home, are of­ten pop­u­lar with on­line shop­pers in the run-up to Christ­mas. These ser­vices, which in­clude the likes of Par­cel Mo­tel and An Post’s Ad­dressPal, can be handy — par­tic­u­larly if you are not at home dur­ing the week to ac­cept pack­ages or parcels. (They can also of­ten de­liver di­rectly to your home.)

Third-party de­liv­ery ser­vices can work out much cheaper for de­liv­ery than stan­dard post or couri­ers and can also help you buy items which are avail­able cheaper else­where — par­tic­u­larly if or­der­ing some­thing from the UK. Some items which are avail­able to buy on­line for ex­am­ple are only de­liv­ered to UK ad­dresses but Par­cel Mo­tel and Ad­dressPal can of­ten be used to get such items de­liv­ered to a pick-up point in the Repub­lic of Ire­land, which you can then col­lect them from.

Handy as such ser­vices can be though, you may not be fully cov­ered if some­thing goes wrong en route — such as dam­age to, or the mis­place­ment or theft of your or­der.

“The re­spon­si­bil­ity of the seller ends once the item or­dered is re­ceived by the third-party de­liv­ery ser­vice,” said Aine Car­roll, direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pol­icy with the con­sumer and com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog, the Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion (CCPC). “Peo­ple of­ten don’t re­alise this un­til things go wrong. The third-party de­liv­ery ser­vice you have used might only ac­cept li­a­bil­ity up to €100 if an item is dam­aged. So you could find your­self se­ri­ously out of pocket.”

Be­fore us­ing third-party de­liv­ery ser­vices to de­liver your or­der, un­der­stand that you are en­ter­ing into two sep­a­rate con­tracts — one with the on­line re­tailer, and one with the de­liv­ery ser­vice. Once the on­line re­tailer has de­liv­ered the item to the de­liv­ery ser­vice’s ware­house, the on­line re­tailer has ful­filled its con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions and your con­tract with the de­liv­ery ser­vice com­pany be­gins, ac­cord­ing to the CCPC. So it is wrong to as­sume that the re­tailer’s re­spon­si­bil­ity for the qual­ity of an or­der will carry through un­til you ac­tu­ally re­ceive it. “If a good is faulty, or some­thing has hap­pened to it en route, some­times it’s hard to know in whose hands the item was in when the fault oc­curred — and who is re­spon­si­ble for that fault,” said Martina Nee, spokes­woman for the Irish con­sumer body, the Eu­ro­pean Con­sumer Cen­tre (ECC) Ire­land.

There­fore, check the terms and con­di­tions of any third-party de­liv­ery ser­vice you are plan­ning to use, par­tic­u­larly if or­der­ing ex­pen­sive items. Find out what li­a­bil­ity cover, if any, the de­liv­ery com­pany pro­vides for lost, dam­aged or stolen items. These com­pa­nies are not obliged to pro­vide you with any li­a­bil­ity cover, ac­cord­ing to the CCPC. Check if you can buy in­sur­ance from the de­liv­ery com­pany to in­crease the amount you are cov­ered for should some­thing go wrong.

GIVE CASH IN­STEAD OF GIFT VOUCH­ERS Gift vouch­ers are a pop­u­lar choice of Christ­mas present. How­ever, the per­son you buy a voucher for could find it im­pos­si­ble to re­deem it be­cause the rules around how and when a voucher can be used may be very strict — par­tic­u­larly if it’s an air­line gift voucher. Many peo­ple have run into dif­fi­cul­ties us­ing air­line gift vouch­ers to buy a flight be­cause the name on the voucher was wrong. “The name which goes on the voucher has to be iden­ti­cal to some­one’s pass­port name,” said Car­roll. “There’s a spe­cific dif­fi­culty there as you may not know what some­one’s pass­port name is.”

So if you are plan­ning to buy an air­line gift voucher for some­one, find out what their pass­port name is and be sure to use that ex­act name and spelling on the voucher. Re­mem­ber the first name that you as­so­ciate with an in­di­vid­ual might not be the ex­act name on their pass­port. For ex­am­ple, if you know a per­son by the name of Jimmy and put that first name on the air­line gift voucher, the in­di­vid­ual won’t be able to use the voucher if the first name on their pass­port is James.

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.

KNOW WHERE YOU STAND UP NORTH 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.

DON’T FALL FOR A SCAM 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.”

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