Caithness Map :: Links to Site Map Great value Unlimited Broadband from an award winning provider  

 

Council Warns On-line Buyers To Beware!

26th June 2007

Trading Standards Officers at The Highland Council are calling on consumers to be on their guard when buying on the internet after a survey highlighted that 40% of on-line business failed to fully comply with the Law.

A recent in-depth survey has uncovered a variety of problems for consumers such as hidden costs and denial of cancellation rights.

Principal Trading Standards Officer Bob Jones explains: "We were receiving increasing numbers of complaints about problems with internet sales and we were also conscious that Highland consumers are particularly dependent on internet sales due to the remote geography of much of the Highlands. We decided to take a systematic look at the internet market."

The survey involved checking a total of a hundred websites, ten each of ten different product types, such as computer goods, toys, car parts and furniture. With some sites that gave cause for concern, a ~test purchase~ was carried out to see how customers would be treated.

The law requires delivery charges and other costs to be made clear to buyers. ~Distance Selling~ rules give consumers the right to cancel most internet purchases for up to seven days after delivery. Sellers must observe these rights and inform prospective purchasers.

The survey found that these laws are being widely flouted. Among the problems identified were:

~ several of the test purchases involved hidden charges being added to the price;
~ many websites did not inform consumers of their right to cancel; and
~ a number of companies were found to be operating illegal returns policies and denying consumers the right to refunds.

Bob Jones continued: "The overall level of non-compliance was 40%. This is very high, especially considering that we concentrated on the ~legitimate~ trade and avoided scammers and known problem traders. Also, we felt that many of the businesses that were complying with the letter of the law were not following the spirit of the law by hiding away important consumer information such as cancellation rights in obscure parts of their sites."

The survey has led to action being taken against businesses across the country by Highland Trading Standards and colleagues in other authorities. This has resulted in formal warnings being issued and assurances and undertakings being given by the businesses that they will comply in future.

Bob Jones said: "The companies we took action against have largely cleaned up their act and we welcome this. However, these are only a sample of the internet sellers out there and we have only really begun to scratch the surface of this issue. Regulating internet sales continues to be a major priority for Highland Trading Standards."

The detailed findings are being reported to the Office of Fair Trading in London which has recently been conducting a ~market study~ into internet sales. Highland Trading Standards hope that consumers~ rights will be protected in future through a combination of raising awareness of their rights amongst consumers and firm action by Trading Standards against offending sellers. There may even be a case for strengthening the legislation.

Trading Standards advice to consumers is to be wary of misleading information and hidden charges when buying on-line. By law, consumers have seven days to cancel most internet purchases, regardless of any attempts by the seller to restrict this right.

Further advice and information on Distance Selling and other consumer rights is available from Trading Standards~ partner organisation Consumer Direct, on telephone 08454 040506 or website www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/ . Information about businesses who may be flouting the rules can be reported to Consumer Direct, or directly to Highland Trading Standards on 01463 228700.

-ends-

Notes to editors:

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 require internet sellers to provide detailed information to prospective buyers before they agree to buy on-line. This includes informing of their right to cancel and the seller must honour this right if invoked by the consumer. The vast majority of internet sales carry cancellation rights which last for seven days after delivery of the goods.

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 makes it an offence for a business to give a ~misleading price indication~ to consumers. This includes situations where a ~headline~ price omits ~hidden~ charges, such as delivery or other compulsory charges.
Highland Council Trading Standards has a duty to enforce a range of consumer legislation, including that relating to Distance Selling and Misleading Prices. Ultimate sanctions are to take cases to the civil or criminal courts, although most problems are dealt with by Trading Standards persuading companies to come into line with the legal requirements.

The Office of Fair Trading is the central government body responsible for promoting fair trading across the UK. It has a variety of roles, one of which is monitoring patterns of trade through "market studies". These have a range of outcomes such as: proposals for extra consumer protection legislation; promotional campaigns to raise awareness of consumer protection issues; direct enforcement action against offenders.

"Test purchasing" is an important and recognised tool used by Trading Standards Officers as part of investigations. It involves posing as a real customer and making purchases without declaring that the buyer is from Trading Standards. The business assumes that they are dealing with a real customer and so the process gives an indication of how a real customer will be treated in terms of the goods supplied, prices charged, any relevant product information, and the terms and conditions of sale applied.

Further information and a copy of the Survey Report can be obtained from David MacKenzie at Highland Council Trading Standards on 01463 228716, or david.j.mackenzie[AT]highland.gov.uk

 

Related Businesses

 

Related Articles

28/7/2021
Deadline to apply for Garden waste permits draws nearThumbnail for article : Deadline to apply for Garden waste permits draws near
The Highland Council's Garden Waste service for 2021/22 starts on Wednesday 1 September 2021 and customers have until Monday 2 August to order their permits to ensure delivery in time for the first collections of the new service year.   The service will run to 31 August 2022, with a winter break in the months of December, January and February.  
14/7/2021
Music Tuition And Core Curriculum Fees Removed
No bills for families.   Fees for children learning a musical instrument at school will be removed thanks to more than £7 million funding from the Scottish Government.  
14/7/2021
Still Time To Apply To Vote In Highland Council By-elections - Wick and East Caithness and Inverness West
Polling will take place on Thursday 12 August to elect one of five candidates standing in The Highland Council's Wick and East Caithness ward and one of seven candidates standing in the Inverness West ward so voters are being reminded to make sure they are ready to make their vote count.   The Local Government by-election has arisen in Wards 3 and 13 due to the resignations of Councillor Nicola Sinclair, one of 4 Councillors representing the Wick and East Caithness Ward, and Councillor Graham Ross, one of 3 members of the Inverness West Ward.  
1/7/2021
Notice Of Elections Published For Highland Council By-elections - Wick and East Caithness and Inverness West
Nomination packs for prospective candidates wishing to stand in both the Wick and East Caithness and the Inverness West ward by-elections are now available on The Highland Council's website The two vacancies have arisen as Councillor Nicola Sinclair, one of 4 Councillors representing the Wick and East Caithness ward and Councillor Graham Ross, one of 3 members for the Inverness West ward are both stepping down.   The Returning Officer, Chief Executive of The Highland Council Donna Manson is encouraging people to put themselves forward as candidates.  
1/7/2021
West Link Project In Inverness Completed As Torvean Swing Bridge OpensThumbnail for article : West Link Project In Inverness Completed As Torvean Swing Bridge Opens
The Highland Council and the contractor for the Inverness West Link Stage 2 Project RJ McLeod have confirmed that the new Torvean Swing Bridge will open to traffic during the afternoon of Thursday 1 July following the comprehensive testing and commissioning phase.   The bridge has been opened as part of the commissioning process over the last few weeks to allow for systems to be fine tuned and painting work under and on the bridge to be carried out as well as training of the Scottish Canals staff on the use of the new bridge, which is now complete.  
1/7/2021
Highland Council Seeks Staff To Help Delivery Key Infrastructure ProjectsThumbnail for article : Highland Council Seeks Staff To Help Delivery Key Infrastructure Projects
The Highland Council is looking to recruit some talented engineering staff to help deliver key infrastructure projects across the Highlands.   Senior Engineer, Golspie Senior Engineer Alness Principal Engineer, Inverness Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Trish Robertson said: "The Highland Council is very much focused on being ambitious, sustainable and connected.  
27/6/2021
Highland Council Agrees A Financial Plan
A financial plan which will invest a further £10M across a range of projects in phase 2 of the investment strategy for Health and Prosperity and £54M of capital investment in schools.   The detailed designs and costings for the five schools identified for investment will be brought to Council in September for approval.  
24/6/2021
Response to recommendations on future of Education in Scotland
The Highland Council noted this week's announcement on the changes to the Scottish qualifications and assessment system following the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Organisation (OECD) report which backs Scotland's school curriculum in its independent review.   Last year, the Scottish Government commissioned the OECD to carry out a review of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).  
23/6/2021
Public Views Sought For Taxi Fare Review In Highland
The public is being asked for its views on proposals by The Highland Council to review the maximum level of charges for the hire of taxis or private hire cars fitted with taxi meters operating under licence of The Highland Council.   The Council has a statutory duty in terms of Section 17 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to review its scales for the fares and other taxi related charges every 18 months.  
23/6/2021
Council Tax Collection Statistics, 2020-21
Scotland's Chief Statistician today released the latest Council Tax Collection Statistics which provides Council Tax collection figures for Scottish local authorities, up to and including the financial year 2020-21.   In 2020-21 for Scotland as whole the total amount of Council Tax billed (after Council Tax Reduction) was £2.675 billion.