Ask for a receipt; no legal obligation on shop to give you one

Pricewatch reader appalled by shop selling €600 phone to 12-year-old daughter

Is there any regulation on selling mobile phones to children and, more especially, mobile phones that cost the same as my first car? Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Is there any regulation on selling mobile phones to children and, more especially, mobile phones that cost the same as my first car? Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

“I am having trouble with a local mobile phone shop,” starts a mail from a reader called Erris who told us she was sending the mail with a tear in her eye.

The problem she was having was with “one of those independently owned shops”, she said without identifying it by name. “Last Saturday my 12-year-old daughter went down to this shop behind my back with her Confirmation money and purchased a refurbished I phone 7 and paid €600 for it.”

Our reader said it was two days later that she saw the phone and questioned her daughter about it. “I was livid that a 12-year-old child could walk into a shop and buy a phone that cost that kind of money.”

However, her upset was only starting. She took the phone and the charger and asked her daughter for the box it came in and the receipt. “Lo and behold the phone was given to her without a box and no receipt. I took early lunch today and went down to the shop to get her money back,” she writes.

“I explained that my daughter had purchased the phone without my knowledge and I asked the daughter and her friend who was with her about the receipt and they are both adamant that they were not given a receipt,” she says.

“I got a copy of the till receipt this morning and the guy in the shop said that the receipt was the warranty. Now, I believe the girls when they say they didn’t get one. They are currently looking at the CCTV footage and I can go down tomorrow to see it. Besides the receipt, is there any regulation on selling mobile phones to children and, more especially, mobile phones that cost the same as my first car? In the finish of it all, I was not getting my money back from them or rather her money. He told me to go to my solicitor and basically told me to leave the shop.”

She says she believes this to be outrageous. “Morally it’s wrong and legally it should be too. The reply that the owner gave me when I asked him was to say this is the phone they are all getting now. Is this the world we live in, that all of our children expect this kind of extravagance? If so, I am really worried for the future of our nation. I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m worried, worried for my child that this is what she expects to have. Aren’t children setting themselves up for failure and a lifetime of misery if they think that they can’t be happy without having these things? I know that this is a whole other topic but I am so sad for these children.”

Big questions

Erris raises some big questions in her mail. Some we can’t answer. Some we can. The bottom line is there is no law preventing a retailer selling a phone to a 12-year-old girl. Last year there was talk of legislation being prepared by Jim Daly, who was chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, which would have led to retailers facing fines if they sold smart phones to children under the age of 14.

However, such a Bill never saw the light of day. When Pricewatch asked him what had happened to his Bill he said he remained “very concerned about minors owning portable devices with unrestricted access to the internet” and said the purpose of his private members Bill “was to force tech giants to produce a child-friendly device which I believe could be done with little or no difficulty”. However, since he was appointed Minister for Mental Health, his private members Bill had to be paused which is not much use to our reader.

Receipt

The other thing that leapt off the page for us was the dispute over the receipt. And we would also say that a price of €600 for a second-hand phone that doesn’t even come with a box represents very bad value for money – something an adult would probably have recognised.

We got in touch with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to see if it had a view on this story.

A spokesman had bad news and the statement shows how unprotected people can be in these circumstances.

“Unfortunately, from the information provided to us, it would appear that the consumer’s options in terms of redress are limited,” he said. “Having examined the information provided, it appears that there are no legal provisions which would have prohibited this trader from selling a mobile phone to a minor. In relation to whether a receipt should have been provided, there is no legal obligation under consumer protection law for a business to provide a receipt for the goods you buy. However, the vast majority of traders will automatically issue receipts to consumers or when requested by a consumer. In terms of the consumer’s options, they may consider seeking independent legal advice.