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Celebrate World Consumer Rights Day by shopping smarter online

Press release from The Complaining Cow

The 15th March 2017 is World Consumer Rights Day[1], organised and promoted by Consumers International[2]. This year’s theme is ‘Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust.

In a world where consumers are purchasing more and more online it becomes more important for people to know their rights and how to complain when things go wrong. So what are your rights when purchasing online? Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! shares much of what you need to know!

  • Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you can reject any goods that are faulty, do not match the description or have not lasted a reasonable length of time. The seller must refund you and pay return postage in any of these events.
  • Up to 30 days after purchase you are entitled to a full refund for items that are not of satisfactory quality or do not match the description. After this time you may have to accept a repair or replacement.
  • If you have paid for a dated or timed delivery and this has not happened, you are entitled to any out of pocket expenses you incurred.
  • The above rules also apply to digital goods, such as downloaded computer software, games and films.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also states that 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 trader 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.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides specific coverage for digital content. Digital content must not be supplied by the retailer within the 14 cooling-off period unless the customer has agreed to it. Once the download starts the cancellation right is lost. If the customer does not give agree to the terms then s/he will have to wait until after 14 days before downloading.
  • Your contract is ALWAYS with the company (or individual) to whom you paid the money. It is not with the courier. Do not be fobbed off when the retailer tells you to contact the courier company. Make the retailer take the time and effort to resolve the situation. It is the retailer who will also have to provide the redress, if necessary, not the courier.
  • You may think you are covered by Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for items over £100 bought on a credit card. However, should you complete a credit card transaction through a third party payment service, the credit card provider and the seller are no longer in a direct relationship, so are not equally liable. This exception applies to PayPal, Worldpay and Google checkout, for example.

Too often consumers get fobbed off because they don’t know their rights. Dewdney says “By ensuring that these laws are observed, and seeking enforcement where necessary, consumers can make smarter choices when shopping online and get justice if things go wrong.”

For more information, advice, help and templates for complaining effectively see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! 

Note to editors:

  • World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and a chance to protest against the market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights.
  • WCRD was inspired by President John F Kennedy, who gave an address to the US congress on 15 March 1962, in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. He was the first world leader to do so, and the consumer movement now marks that date every year as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights. The first WCRD was observed on 15 March 1983, and has since become an important occasion for mobilising citizen action.



By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

2 replies on “Celebrate World Consumer Rights Day by shopping smarter online”

Helen, love your work especially your advice from a few years back on “10 Killer Ways To Take Charge of Customer Complaints.” That article has helped me in my day job dealing with others, who are sometimes irrational.

Your title “shopping smarter online” moved me to comment about an area that I have a lot of passion about – which is the trend of small quilt shops (fabric, sewing and quilting stores) going out of business. We see this trend almost everywhere in the US both with local quilt shops (brick & mortar locations) and our favorite online stores (smaller fabric stores with a few employees).

In my fabric buying universe, I can either go with the large online retailers (i.e. the company that Amazon acquired) that offers terrible customer service, inaccurate cuts, and generic responses when you open a ticket for a problem (you can’t even get someone on the phone to deal with your issue), OR, I can “shop smarter” by supporting a smaller fabric store such as who is my new favorite. It’s owned by a quilter. I can always get the owner by email, IM or phone, or just submit a ticket online. It’s clear she has a love for fabric in the way it’s folded *and sorted* when I receive it.

In short, when I use instead of the big competitor, I don’t have to ever worry about complaining. My choice of vendor, and in this case, the smaller online retailer run by a passionate owner, is my way of “shopping smarter.” My concerns is what happens when all the small shops disappear and we have just a few big online operators left. When there’s no more competition for customers and everyone just wants to save a few pounds/dollars, we’ll all get stuck with large bureaucratic customer service. In the US, we joke about how terrible customer service is at the DMV – the workers don’t care about the customers b/c we are captive and there’s no alternative. My experience with some of the large online retailers (when I’ve had a legitimate customer service issue) is similar.

I would love to see you write more on how we can proactively prevent having to even lodge a complaint by supporting great businesses.

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