Categorized | Retail and Consumer

Online Retailers Breaking Consumer Law

Posted on 16 October 2012 by editor

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has said that nearly a third of online retailers are not meeting the consumer protection law. Of 156 most popular websites they visited, 62 are thought not to meet the required standard.

Most websites were not meeting the standard because they placed unreasonable restrictions on refunds and compulsory charges for returning unwanted items.

Another most common problem found was internet sites were wrongly advising their customers that returned goods must be in their original packaging / condition. The OFT has indicated that this could be in breach of the buyer’s right to inspect or assess a product. We inspected Amazons website today and although they did allow goods to be returned within 30 days, they were required to be in their original unopened packaging.

The OFT has given retailers until Christmas to change their online policies.

Online shopping: Your rights

  • Goods must be delivered within 30 days, unless agreed otherwise
  • You can cancel an order within seven working days in most cases (longer for financial products) and get a full refund
  • The refund should include any delivery charges, although you may have to pay for returns
  • You don’t have to return the goods in their original packaging
  • You are responsible for the safe return of items
  • The retailer would have to pay for return postage if the items are going back because they are faulty or not as ordered

Alarmingly, nearly over half of websites did not provide an email address for customers to get in contact – this is breach of the E-Commerce regulations.

The distance shopping regulations stipulate state that items should be delivered within 30 days and that shoppers should be given a 7-day cooling-off period in which they can cancel an order and get a full refund. This is because online shoppers are unable to inspect the items prior to purchase and therefore need to the opportunity for the goods to arrive, inspect them, and then make the decision whether to keep them or not.

This poses obvious problems for online retailers, particularly those selling clothes. It is not uncommon for individuals to order goods for a special occasion. To wear them, an then return them for a full refund.

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