In recent years, Ireland has consolidated its consumer rights protection act into a single comprehensive piece of legislation. The bill makes Irish consumer rights easier to understand so buyers know their rights and businesses understand their obligations.
If you operate a business in Ireland, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with the bill and its directives. Companies that offer digital services, like software, need to understand consumer protection legislation to be sure they’re honouring the rights of the consumer and protecting their business from legal action or fines.
In this blog, we’ve summarised the main contents of the bill into an easy-to-understand cheatsheet. It’s not legal advice – we’re not solicitors – but a solid outline of the bill’s most important points and how they might affect your business.
We also offer tips on how you can ensure you’re protecting both the business and the consumer with your digital and other services.
Critical Components of Ireland's Consumer Protection Act
In general, Ireland’s consumer protection laws regulate goods or services, with some parts of the bill (which was updated as the Consumer Rights Act 2022) applying specifically to financial services (for a breakdown of the financial services specifics, read more here). In its most recent form, the rights of the consumer bill stipulates
- Stronger rights for consumers when it comes to the quality, fitness for purpose, and delivery of the goods or services they’ve purchased
- Legal solutions for buyers when the products or services they’ve purchased don’t meet technical or industry standards
- More protection for consumers when they’ve entered a contract for good with digital components, like smartphones or smart appliances
- Keeping and expanding the current list of terms in business contracts that are considered unfair. These are outlined in the UTCC (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations and include measures like:
- Making the consumer carry the burden of proof when the business should legally carry it instead
- Getting the consumer who is in legal arbitration to pay their own legal costs
- Insisting that a consumer can only bring suit against a business in the jurisdiction where that business is located
- Better enforcement for the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission so that they can enforce the bill’s laws against businesses that don’t comply
You can read more specifics of this list in Section 132 of the new bill.
Ensuring fair digital consumer contracts
When a consumer buys a product or service in the real world, and it doesn’t work, they are guaranteed rights to remedy the situation. But until the updates to the Consumer Rights Act in 2022, there were no similar laws or redress options for faulty goods in the digital world.
Ireland’s most recent form of the Consumer Rights Act now addresses consumer contracts for products and services delivered digitally – such as website designs or software – and guarantees the same rights for consumers as their physical counterparts.
Under Ireland’s Consumer Rights Act 2022, digital services and goods must be operable and functional, delivering the agreed-upon quality and quantity in the contract. They must also be fit for the agreed purpose, installed, and maintained as the contract states.
Digital goods and services are to be operable and functional, retaining the agreed-upon quality and quantity for the duration of all digital content contracts.
If consumers feel that the digital content they’ve bought doesn’t meet the contract terms, they can ask the business to bring the product or service up to standard as long as this won’t impose a disproportionate cost on the company. But the business is obliged to:
- Fix the problem free of charge,
- In a reasonable time frame,
- And without inconvenience to the consumer.
Suppose the business doesn’t comply with the contract they’ve signed. In that case, Irish consumer rights also impose specific enforcement powers, like forcing the company to honour the agreement, reducing the price for the product or service, or allowing the consumer to terminate the contract.
The Consumer Protection Act also stipulates that contracts cannot contain unfair terms. Under the most recent legislation, digital content contracts that have unfair terms are not legally binding for the consumer.
Eliminating false reviews to protect consumer rights
Under the Irish consumer rights bill, it’s also illegal for businesses to write reviews of their own goods or services online, or to commission fake reviews to improve their review ratings artificially.
Irish law states that false reviews violate consumer rights by enticing the consumer to buy goods under false pretences.
How to ensure you're compliant with the new bill
Ireland has a long history of protecting consumer rights (starting with the Consumer Credit Act 1995). Under Irish and European Parliament law, consumers enjoy strong legal protection.
Many of the rules outlined in the Irish Consumer Rights Bill 2022 are also extended to consumers through European Union consumer protection rules. If you haven’t written your contracts to align with EU consumer law precisely, now’s a good time to double-check that they’re compliant.
To ensure you’re compliant with the new bill, you’ll want to:
- Review your contract terms. Contract terms that remove the onus of responsibility from your business and place it with the consumer should be rewritten.
- Review the contract dates to ensure you provide your customers with continuing service for the entire agreement.
- Review contact information and redress processes in your contracts so that customers have a transparent process for asking your business for remedies.
- Remove any fake or misleading ads or reviews you may have online.
Talk to legal counsel about any questions, including certain aspects of your contract that may violate Irish or EU consumer rights. Remember that if you’re a member of Retail Excellence Ireland, you can avail of free legal advice and support.
Accessible website design is a consumer right, too
We might not be legal experts, but we are Ireland’s experts in ethical, accessible website design and digital marketing to boost eCommerce revenue.
Accessible design is a legal requirement for all websites operating within the EU. Ireland and the European Parliament guarantee strong rights for all consumers, and that includes accessible websites.
All digital content is subject to this law, including videos and forms, and all websites are expected to be designed in a way that makes them easy to operate and navigate, even for users with disabilities.
If you need a hand ensuring your website complies with EU web accessibility requirements, get in touch today!