Buying goods online

Question

I have ordered a few presents online. Can I return them if I change my mind when I get them?

Answer

If you bought your goods from a business based in the EU, they are covered by the EU Directive on Consumer Rights. Under this Directive, you are entitled to a cooling-off period of 14 days. During the cooling-off period, you can cancel distance contracts such as online purchases without giving a reason and without incurring charges or penalties, other than possible charges for returning the goods. The 14-day cooling-off period begins on the day that you receive the goods.

The distance seller must repay you for the goods including delivery costs within 14 days of cancellation,. If you chose a more expensive type of delivery than the seller’s cheapest standard delivery, you are only entitled to be refunded the cost of the cheaper delivery type. The seller can withhold the repayment until the goods are returned or until you supply evidence that you have sent the goods back.

You must send the goods back within 14 days of informing the seller of the cancellation. You may have to pay for the cost of returning them. The seller must have informed you of these costs before you completed the purchase.

The seller should also have given you confirmation of the contract, as well as information on aftersales and guarantees, how to cancel the contract and a postal address for complaints. If the seller did not provide you with information on your right to cancel, the cooling-off period can be extended by 12 months.

Some purchases are not covered by the cooling-off period. These include customised or perishable goods and bookings for transport or accommodation.

If you bought your goods from a business based outside the EU, they are not covered under the EU Directive. For these goods, you should check the terms and conditions on the website of the business you bought them from.

Pay for public holidays

Question

I work part-time from Wednesday to Friday. This year Christmas fell on a Tuesday. Should I get paid for Christmas Day, even though I didn’t work that day?  What about New Year’s Day which fell on the following Tuesday?

Answer

Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day are public holidays. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not. All workers are entitled to paid time off or pay for a public holiday. (Your employer can decide whether to give you time off or pay.) Part-time workers must have worked for the employer for at least 40 hours in the previous five-week period to have a public holiday entitlement.

If you work part-time and the public holiday falls on a day that you usually work you are entitled to a day’s pay or a paid day off for the public holiday. Part-time workers who are not rostered to work on a public holiday are also entitled to pay or to paid time off for the public holiday. This is one-fifth of their normal pay for the week as compensation for the holiday.

In your case, you should get one-fifth of your normal weekly pay for each of the two public holidays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. So you should get the additional pay or the equivalent amount of time off. Your employer can decide which option to give you.

If you have to work on a public holiday you are entitled to be paid at your usual rate and you are also entitled to either an additional day’s pay or a paid day off. You can get detailed information on employment rights from the workplacerelations.ie website.

Unplanned pregnancies

The HSE provides information and support on all your options, including continued pregnancy supports and abortion services on myoptions.ie.

The My Options freephone line will be open from 1 January 2019 on 1800 828 010.

Opening hours over Christmas and New Year

Citizens Information Board

The Citizens Information Board will be closed on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 December and on Tuesday 1 January 2019.

Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS)

CIPS can be contacted on 0761 07 4000. Its opening hours are:

Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS)

Check with your local service.

The MABS Helpline can be contacted on 0761 07 2000. Its opening hours are:

Citizens Information Services

Check with your local Citizens Information Centre.

 

Public holidays over Christmas and New Year

Christmas Day (Tuesday 25 December) and St Stephen’s Day (Wednesday 26 December) are public holidays.
Tuesday 1 January 2019 (New Year’s Day) is also a public holiday.

If a public holiday falls on a day on which you normally work, you are entitled to either:

  • A paid day off on the public holiday
  • A paid day off within a month of the public holiday
  • An additional day’s pay
  • An additional day’s annual leave

If the public holiday falls on a day on which you do not normally work, then you are entitled to one-fifth of your normal weekly wage for that day.

Part-time employees qualify for public holiday entitlement if they have worked at least 40 hours during the 5 weeks ending on the day before a public holiday.

Read more about your public holiday entitlements.

Drink driving offences

Question

I’ve heard the law around drink driving changed recently. What has changed?

Answer

Yes, the law around drink driving has changed. Since 26 October 2018, under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018, drivers who previously got 3 penalty points for certain drink driving offences will now be disqualified from driving for 3 months instead.

It is an offence to drive in a public place if the level of alcohol in your blood, breath or urine is above the prescribed alcohol limit. There are different alcohol limits for new drivers and experienced drivers. New drivers are drivers with learner permits or drivers who have held a driving licence for 2 years or less, or people without a valid licence or permit.

Drink driving offences can be dealt with through the administrative penalty system or the court system. However, the administrative penalty system only applies in certain cases, for example, where the driver has a valid licence or permit and their alcohol intake is below a certain level. The recent legislation changes the additional penalty for experienced drivers found with the lowest levels of alcohol in their system. These levels are:

  1. 51mg to 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  2. 68mg to 107mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine
  3. 23mg to 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath

Previously, experienced drivers found with these levels of alcohol would be fined €200, and get an additional penalty of 3 penalty points. Now, these drivers will get the same €200 fine, but will also be disqualified from driving for 3 months.

Taxi charges

Question

Can taxis charge higher fares over Christmas and New Year?

Answer

Yes, taxis can charge more on certain days over Christmas. There are three different rates under the National Maximum Taxi Fare; the standard rate, the premium rate and the special premium rate.

The standard rate applies from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday. The premium rate applies at night from 8pm to 8am and on Sundays and public holidays. And the special premium rate applies between 8pm on Christmas Eve and 8am on St. Stephen’s Day and between 8pm on New Year’s Eve and 8am on New Year’s Day. The rates are lowest at the standard rate and most expensive at the special premium rate. So, taxis can charge more when the special premium rate applies over Christmas.

The National Maximum Taxi Fare consists of 3 separate parts:

  • Initial charge:amount which appears on the meter at the beginning of the journey. This is €3.80 at the standard rate and €4.20 at the premium rates. It includes an initial distance of 500m, or 85 seconds.
  • Further travel:after the distance/time included in the initial charge has been exceeded, further travel is calculated on small portions of the journey. At low speeds, or when a taxi is stationary, the fare is calculated on the basis of time. The charges for further travel differ depending on what rate applies when you are travelling. The charges are lowest at the standard rate and most expensive at the special premium rate.
  • Extra charge: there are strict rules about extra charges, including a booking fee, additional passenger charges and a soiling charge.

You can ask for a discount before engaging a taxi. Drivers have the right to charge the maximum amount calculated on the meter, or a lower amount at their discretion.

Help for people in mortgage arrears

Question

We’re way behind with our mortgage and can’t pay our other bills either. We’re afraid that the bank will take our home – they keep sending us letters. What can we do?

Answer

You can contact MABS, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, to get help under the scheme of aid and advice for borrowers in home mortgage arrears. Contact the MABS Helpline: 0761 07 2000 (9am – 8pm, Mon – Fri) or your local MABS office.

This scheme is part of Abhaile, the national Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service. It provides a range of services to help you to deal with your situation, including financial advice, legal advice and insolvency advice.

Abhaile is coordinated by the Departments of Justice and Equality, and Employment Affairs and Social Protection. It is operated by MABS along with the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI), the Legal Aid Board and the Citizens Information Board. Panels of qualified and regulated professionals provide services under Abhaile.

You will qualify for advice and assistance under Abhaile if:

  • You are insolvent – this means that you are unable to pay your debts in full as they fall due and
  • You are in mortgage arrears on your home and
  • You are at risk of losing your home (for example, if your mortgage lender has initiated repossession proceedings or indicated that they plan to do so; if they have said that they consider you to be non-cooperating; or if they have asked you to consider selling or surrendering your home) and
  • The costs of staying in your home are proportionate to your reasonable accommodation needs

You can contact MABS to check if you are eligible for Abhaile (as eligibility is decided case by case). Read more about Abhaile on mabs.ie.

Regulation of charities

Question

How are charities regulated in Ireland?

Answer

The Charities Regulatory Authority (Charities Regulator) regulates charities in Ireland. It maintains a public register of charities and monitors their compliance with the Charities Act 2009. This Act sets out what an organisation must do to be recognised as a charity and the legal obligations for operating as a charity in Ireland.

To be considered a charity, an organisation must:

  • Operate in the Republic of Ireland (though its target group can be elsewhere)
  • Exist for a charitable purpose and exclusively promote this purpose (a charitable purpose is a goal that is of public benefit)
  • Not be an excluded body (such as a trade union, chamber of commerce etc.)

The organisation must first give the Regulator information about itself, so the Regulator can assess if it meets the requirements to be a charity. If the Regulator approves the application, it awards the organisation charitable status, gives it a Registered Charity Number and lists it on the charities register. You can search the charities register on charitiesregister.ie.

It is an offence for an organisation to describe itself as a charity and carry out charitable activities, if it is not registered with the Charities Regulator.

The Regulator can appoint an inspector to investigate a charity’s affairs. The charity and its trustees must co-operate fully and give the inspector all the relevant accounts and documents.

The Regulator can choose to take a charity off the register – for example, if it fails to comply with its financial obligations or give the Regulator the information it requires.

If you are concerned about a charity or its activities, you can raise a concern with the Charities Regulator.