Consumer issues with diamond earrings and a €1,100 credit note

Pricewatch: what are your rights to refunds, repairs and replacements?

“My husband bought me diamond earrings. I exchanged them for a cheaper pair and the difference was €1,100. The shop informed me that I would only be allowed a credit note and not a refund.”

“My husband bought me diamond earrings. I exchanged them for a cheaper pair and the difference was €1,100. The shop informed me that I would only be allowed a credit note and not a refund.”

 

Generally speaking when we get problems from readers it is because a business has let them down or treated them very badly. We do, however, also get correspondence from readers who are not fully aware of the limits of their rights as consumers.

A reader called Gráinne contacted us looking for some advice. “My husband bought me diamond earrings in a specialist shop for Christmas in 2015. I exchanged them for a cheaper pair and the difference was €1,100. The shop informed me that I would only be allowed a credit note and not a refund,” she writes.

Now, it is 18 months later and Gráinne still has “no intention of purchasing any further items so our money is still in their hands”. She says this has “really begun to annoy us as to use up the ‘credit’ we need to spend a couple of grand. I haven’t contacted the shop yet as I feel I need to know where I stand first. Is this legal?”

The short answer to this question is: yes, it is legal. Under consumer legislation the shop is under no obligation to give Gráinne any money back or even a credit note just because she returns an item or wants to exchange it for a cheaper piece of jewellery.

The law is pretty clear. It says retailers must sell products which are as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If they are not one or all of these things, then the shop must offer a customer a refund, a repair or a replacement. But it is the shop and not the customer who gets to choose which of the Rs is offered.

Credit note

In Gráinne’s case there appears to have been nothing wrong with the piece of jewellery and – despite the fact that this will displease her greatly – the store was actually going above and beyond what was legally required of it by giving her the credit note to make up the difference between the product she originally got and the product she actually wanted.

Had it wanted to, it could have either refused the exchange entirely, or allowed the exchange but refused to do anything about price differential between the two items.

At least that is legally. However, to refuse to offer a credit note in such circumstances is, generally, a spectacularly bad business because it will anger a customer and almost certainly guarantee they will never return. That is why most shops do offer credit notes in circumstances such as this.

But it would not be fair to expect this or any shop to take a financial hit just because the recipient of a gift did not like it or it did not suit. So, what Gráinne could do is try and find a friend to buy the credit note – presuming it is transferable – or buy a piece of jewellery with the intention of selling it.

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