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Is Dunnes breaking consumer law when it comes to returns?

Pricewatch Extra: A reader, Ann, bought items on the retailer’s website in March and they arrived two days later. Just by opening the box, though, things started to go wrong

Is Dunnes Stores, one of the largest retailers in the Republic, breaking consumer law? That was the troubling question a reader called Ann asked last week in a mail she sent to Pricewatch in connection with an interaction with the shop that left her distinctly aggrieved.

She bought three different products on the retailer’s website in early March, and two days later they arrived courtesy of a courier. “Excellent so far,” she says.

“I opened the box and all looked good to the eye; however, in opening the box, the sheet of paper with the order details inside was torn, as it was stuck to the back of the tape that taped the carton closed.”

Now Ann wasn’t overly concerned, as she only usually uses this sheet “to confirm the contents of the box as against my order, to make sure I have received everything. I did not realise it was, in Dunnes’s worldview, the most crucial part of the transaction, and not the confirmation email, the purchase on Visa on my banking app, confirmation of delivery or, indeed, the quality of the goods.”


A few days after the products arrived she discovered one had a defect, so on March 11th she took herself off to a Dunnes outlet with the defective item in search of an exchange.

“There were three themed items in the order and I did not want to return all three,” she says. “Armed with the email confirming the order from Dunnes, my visa confirmation of payment on my banking app and the courier email confirming delivery and a photo, off I went! The gardaí don’t have a chain of evidence that robust,” she says.

“Unfortunately, there was none of the product left in store and it was completely sold out online. In effect a replacement was not possible, and I knew they wouldn’t send the item for repair, so I just wanted a refund of €25 for the damaged product to my Visa.”

Now, you might imagine that a retailer of such a size would be able to accommodate such a request, but it was at this point things started going off the rails for poor Ann.

“The manager, who was lovely, told me that they could not do anything as I did not have the paperwork from inside the box. I advised it was torn on opening the package and that I had binned it as a result. She told me her hands were tied by Dunnes policy and that I was not entitled to a refund.

“I informed her that I was not getting to be both out of pocket and stuck with faulty/useless goods, and I only wanted a remedy – a replacement or a refund – ideally the former, but that wasn’t possible in that shop. The manager rang Blanchardstown to see if they had any, but they too were sold out. However, they were in stock in Henry Street. As a very last resort, she gave me a gift card, as she was not permitted to give me a refund. I went into Henry Street and purchased a replacement.”

Ann points out that it was not her fault that the “form was stuck to the back of the box and was torn [when] opening the package, but I thought I had more than enough to prove the purchase”.

She wrote to Dunnes and received a response that left her troubled.

This is what it said: “As per our returns policy which is printed on our receipts and online at, a receipt or gift receipt is required for the return of goods within 28 days of purchase. If the receipt is not available to confirm the original method of payment used for the online purchase, the store will facilitate with a refund to the value paid on a Dunnes Stores gift card.”

Ann “was always under the assumption that a receipt was not the ONLY proof of purchase; the goods were faulty and I brought them back in a very timely manner, and so I should have been entitled to a refund on my Visa and not forced to take a gift card”.

So she did some more digging. “When I did have a quick look at their terms and policy, I did find the following: “Faulty items can also be returned in store by presenting the order and delivery dispatch note to the customer service desk in any of our stores. Once we confirm the item is faulty, we will refund the amount paid to the original form of payment or exchange it for another item in store.”

She is pretty sure this means the refund should have been returned to her Visa card.

She contacted the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and says that while she does not want to pursue the matter, she feels she is “getting nowhere with Dunnes, who are gaslighting me. Which is top of the pile – legislation or Dunnes policy?”

Well, our initial reaction was that the law trumps store policy every single time.

So we got on to Dunnes Stores.

In practical terms, should there be any doubt that the item was purchased from the trader in question or that the consumer is still within the 30-day period, an order number, bank statement, or even packaging with identifying details can serve as record of purchase

—  Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

In our mail, we said: “It is clear that refusing to offer a refund, repair or replacement if a product is defective is a breach of consumer law. It is also clear that no retailer can insist on one particular form of proof of purchase and disregard all others. With that in mind, I wonder why this policy is in place, and if Dunnes Stores is concerned it is opening itself up to legal action as a result.”

We received no response from the retailer.

That is not unusual, as Dunnes Stores rarely, if ever, responds to queries from this page or indeed from any other media outlet.

So we contacted the CCPC ourselves highlighting Ann’s story, and received the following statement.

“If an item is faulty, the consumer has the right to a repair, replacement or refund – and for the first 30 days after delivery, they have a straightforward right to cancel and get a full refund. To exercise this right to cancel, the consumer must just a) tell the trader they are going to cancel the sales contract and b) return the faulty item, at the trader’s expense. This is set out in part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2022. The consumer is not required by law to produce a receipt at any stage of this process; it’s enough for them to just follow the two steps above.

“In practical terms, should there be any doubt that the item was purchased from the trader in question or that the consumer is still within the 30-day period, an order number, bank statement, or even packaging with identifying details can serve as record of purchase. Should this be disputed, the consumer has the option of taking a case to the Small Claims Court.

“The trader must give the refund by the same payment method used to pay for the item in the first place, unless the consumer expressly agrees otherwise.

“It’s worth noting that for online orders, even for items that are not faulty, there is a statutory 14-day cooling-off period for the vast majority of products. Set out in part 5 of the Consumer Rights Act 2022, this gives the consumer 14 days after delivery to decide if they are going to keep the item; if they decide not to, they must tell the trader within those 14 days and then return the item within another 14 days for a full refund. Some traders require items ordered online to be returned by post, rather than to a physical store; consumers must be informed of this prior to purchase. Again there is no legal requirement for the consumer to provide a receipt. The policies of individual traders do not supersede consumer rights as set out in law.”

We then got back on to the CCPC and asked if it would taking the matter up directly with Dunnes Stores.

“We can’t comment on individual traders, but consumer complaints are referred to our enforcement divisions and screened for further action,” a spokeswoman said.