What are my consumer rights when buying gemstones and jewellery?
March the 15th, World Consumer Rights Day, is an important date for the Gemstone Detective. As a woman on a mission to prevent my readers from being ripped off when buying gemstones and jewellery, consumer rights are a topic close to my heart. So, to mark the day, here’s a quick look at your rights as a shopper, whether you’re buying at home or abroad, online or on the street.
First do your homework
A little caution before you shop will save tears post purchase. It’s safer to buy from retailers who have signed up to a recognised association and agreed to abide by a strict code of conduct. In the UK, we have several such associations – the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) is one of the largest. Wherever in the world you are planning to buy, look up that country’s trade associations. Each of my country-specific Gemstone Detective books contains the details of the leading gemstone and jewellery associations operating in that country, so you can be sure you have the information you need.
In the UK, you can buy safe in the knowledge that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 protects you if your purchases are not as described by the retailer, faulty, not fit for purpose or not of satisfactory quality. You can usually ask for a refund, repair or replacement. If you are buying gemstones and jewellery abroad, find out what consumer rights laws apply in that country, and make sure you have checked the retailer’s terms and conditions before purchasing.
Plan to put purchases between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card. Under Section 75 of the consumer credit act, your credit card company shares liability with the retailer on purchases between these limits. If there is a problem you are unable to resolve with the retailer, your credit card company will cover your loss.
Changing your mind
If your problem does not come under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you will need to refer to the retailer’s individual returns policy. Buying online in the UK gives you a 14-day cooling-off period, during which you can cancel or reject your order for a full refund without having to give a reason. Remember, though, that personalised jewellery or jewellery for piercings cannot be returned or exchanged unless it contravenes the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Before buying gemstones and jewellery abroad it’s a good idea to find out the shop’s refund and exchange policy in case you change your mind once you get back to the hotel room.
If things go wrong
Your first step should be to approach the retailer, explain the problem calmly and politely, and outline the action you would like the retailer to take. If you phone or visit in person, do remember to follow up with an email so that you have a written record of your dealings with each other. If you need to take your complaint further, you could seek help from the relevant trading association—but only if you’ve taken my advice and purchased from a member retailer!
After trying both approaches to no avail, it’s time to turn to the law. In the UK, you could apply to have your case go through Small Claims—a relatively straightforward procedure to deal with claims up to £10,000. Claims greater than £10,000 are more complicated and you will need proper legal advice. If you have purchased abroad, you could approach the country’s embassy to find out what steps you might need to take. I’d advise contacting the International Consumer Protection and Enforcer Network (ICPEN), which can help you understand your consumer rights in cross-border disputes.
Of course, prevention is better than cure. Arm yourself with the Gemstone Detective series before you start shopping, and save yourself some damage to heart, soul and wallet!
Kim Rix, GG (GIA)