Christmas is coming… are online retailers getting fat?

Online shopping and National Consumer Week

Christmas is coming and many of us will be shopping online. But it’s not just the internet giants who will reap the rewards of the Festive Season. Many smaller retailers and individuals are benefiting by using the big-name platforms, such as Amazon and Ebay, to sell their goods. In fact, more than half of the products sold on Amazon worldwide in 2017 were from third-party sellers.

Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Trading Standards have launched a campaign to raise awareness of using online marketplaces, such as on Amazon, GumTree and eBay. This is part of National Consumer Week, which starts on 26th November 2018, to coincide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

National Consumer Week picture of laptop

So, how do you best protect yourself when shopping online, if you’re dealing with individual sellers?

What you need to know when shopping from a business through a marketplace

1)    Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, consumers have 14 days cooling off period for changing their minds. You have up to 14 days to inform the retailer and 14 days from then to send back. There are some exceptions to this, such as bespoke items. Whether or not return postage has to be paid depends on the trader’s terms and conditions. If the item is faulty you should receive the full cost of any postage paid for sending the item to you and for returning it.

2)    For any complaint you will need to go through the platform’s process for complaining to an external seller. You may also find that the platform gives you additional protection.

3)    The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that items must be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time. You can return any items if they do not meet any of these requirements. You do not have to pay return postage in this instance.

4)    If you are buying from an individual and not a business then the item needs only to be “as described”.

5)    If you paid extra for a dated/timed delivery and it does not arrive on time you are entitled to a full refund of the extra cost.

6)    Goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the seller must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.

7)    Check where the item is being sent from! You will have the equivalent consumer rights if ordered from within the EU but not if it is ordered from outside the EU.

Rip Off Britain shopping online

8)    Use a payment system, such as PayPal, when purchasing items. This will give you cover if anything goes wrong with the purchase.

9)    If the item is over £100 (and under £30,000) and you purchase the item on a credit card, you have a right to be refunded via the credit card company if you make a claim within 6 years (5 in Scotland), using Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

10) Completing a credit card transaction through a third party payment service means that the credit card provider and the seller are no longer in a direct relationship, so are not equally liable. So, you do not have the credit card cover if you use a third-party payment service such as PayPal, Amazon Marketplace, Worldpay and Google Checkout.

Research into knowledge of consumer rights and  online shopping

The CAB’s summary information for National Consumer Week looked at research into habits and problems with online shopping.

“Nearly half of people (48%) didn’t think there was a difference in their consumer rights when buying online compared to buying in a store, despite the fact that they usually have enhanced rights on returns for online purchases.

A significant proportion of people didn’t know their rights changed depending on the type of seller – for example a trader or private seller – with over a third (35%) saying there wasn’t a difference in their rights and a further 9% saying they didn’t know either way.”

“The most common redress issue reported to the consumer service is where the consumer wanted a refund but was struggling to get one.”

This was from the BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker August 2018

Further help with online shopping

woman sitting at computer text how not to get ripped off when shopping online

 

Don’t let shopping online become a “rip off”

Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries

 

 

Your rights with deliveries:

Deliveries ITV news with Martin Lewis, Helen Dewdney & Peter Handley

More resources for complaining effectively

Top 20 Tips for Complaining Effectively

Complaining on social media

The twitter symbol How not to complain on Twitter

 

Is social media an effective method for complaining?

5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should)

 

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

The bestseller. Tips, advice, consumer laws, information, stories and template letters. All you need to write that perfect letter of complaint!

 

 

 

Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

As a nation the British aren’t very good at complaining. Fewer than 45% of us know and use our legal rights.[1]

Although there is an increase in using social media to complain and whilst this may be considered complaining, it often doesn’t gain the legal redress that letters or emails can elicit. The main reasons cited by people for not complaining are that it takes too much time and effort and that they are unsure of their legal rights.

The Consumer Rights Act, introduced on the 1st October, consolidated a number of Acts and introduced cover for digital goods, but with so few people currently knowing and using their legal rights the numbers complaining might decrease still further.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer rights blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! touched upon this on Rip Off Britain Live on 22 October.[2] Dewdney says that whenever she has used EU law when complaining it has made it easier to gain redress.

Recently a friend of hers booked a hotel in Germany through an online travel agent based in the Netherlands. He was told that the booking did not complete and to book with the hotel directly. When he did this he incurred a 7% admin fee on the credit card payment where there had been none before. Dewdney says “The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) states the need for a trader to ensure that the customer understands what is included in the contract and with no hidden costs. This is clearly not the case here. The email from the website stated that he needed to provide the credit card details and that the hotel would process the payment. The email clearly led him to believe that his contract was still with the website acting as a travel agent but the hotel would only be processing it. The “invoice” which he received after payment showed the credit card charge of 7%. Had the booking gone through normally there would have been no charge.[3] Dewdney succeeded in getting a refund of the full fee. (Full story here).

With more and more of us shopping online it is becoming increasing necessary to not only know our legal consumer rights for this country but in the EU too. If you need help with fighting a case across borders within the EU, the UK European Consumer Centre can advise.

How well do you know your rights? Here’s a list of some you may need to know : [5]

1) The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) [4] 
Understanding what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs

Burden of proof of contract lies with trader

Right to change your mind when buying at a distance or off premises with a 14 days cooling off period

Deliveries without undue delay within 30 days unless other time frame agreed by both parties

Pre-ticked boxes for additional payments are not allowed

2) EU Directive 1999/44/EC
Minimum 2 year limitation period within which you can bring a legal claim against the retailer from whom you purchased the goods. (In UK it is maximum of 6 years under the Consumer Rights Act 2015)

3) Unfair Consumer Contracts Regulations EU Directive 93/13/EEC
Where you and the trader haven’t negotiated terms a contract term can be deemed as unfair if it creates “significant imbalance” in the trader and consumer’s positions.

4) Denied Boarding Regulations EU EC261
Compensation if your flight is delayed (amounts vary for length and distance departing from any EU airport regardless of airline. More details here.

5) The ADR Directive 2013/11/EU
Consumers can use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entities for all kinds of contractual disputes that they have with traders. This applies no matter what they purchased (excluding disputes about health and higher education) and whether they purchased it online or offline, domestically or across borders. In the UK retailers need only “signpost” to an ADR scheme, as it is not mandatory for retailers to belong to a scheme.[6] More here.

[1] Fewer than 45% of People in the UK use their Consumer Rights according to research published in October 2014 here.

[2] Rip Off Britain Live 22 October 2015.

[3] More on the story here

[4] This directive replaces, as of 13 June 2014, Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts and Directive 85/577/EEC to protect consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises. Directive 1999/44/EC, on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees as well as Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts, remains in force.

[5] More details available from Helen Dewdney.

[6] More details about ADR in the UK here