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National Consumer Week 2018

27th November 2018

Online shopping has now become part of everyday life in the UK. In 2016, £154 billion was spent online in the UK and the vast majority of consumers (84%) are considered online shoppers. This shift to online spending is ever increasing and while many online sales will be with established businesses, a significant proportion of which are from small businesses or private sellers via the online market place. Whilst most sales go through smoothly, consumers can experience a range of problems when shopping via the online marketplace.

In partnership with Citizens Advice Consumer Service, Highland Council Trading Standards wish to inform consumers of their rights when shopping from an online trader and explain some of the pitfalls to look out for when shopping through an online market place.

This year's campaign was launched on ‘Cyber Monday', 26th November 2018 , which is a big pre-Christmas shopping day, where there are expected to be millions of shoppers going online to purchase gifts and festive goods on the run up to Christmas.

The following simple guide provides information for online market place shoppers on their rights and remedies available to them as well as where to seek further advice and assistance when problems remain unresolved.

Buying online - Returning faulty goods

Whether you buy from an online marketplace seller or a trader on the high street, protection for consumers is provided under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. All sellers must have the right to sell the goods (i.e. - the person transferring or selling the goods must have the right to do so). Goods must also:

Be of satisfactory quality

Be fit for a particular purpose

Match the description, sample or model

Be installed correctly - where installation has been agreed as part of the contract.

Remedy for breach - Goods (Full Refund)

Short term right to reject

Consumers can use their short term right to reject (30 day time limit). If goods do not meet statutory requirements a consumer is entitled to reject the goods within 30 days. The 30 days starts from purchase; delivery or completion of contract - whichever is later. Consumers must receive a full refund without delay and within 14 days of the trader agreeing that the consumer is entitled to a refund.

If the goods cannot be repaired or replaced within the first 6 months then a consumer, in most cases can request a full refund. However, the burden of proof is reversed onto the consumer where the claim for a repair or replacement is more than six months.

Buying online: Consumer Rights

Consumers can use their right to cancel their order for goods ordered online anytime from the moment the order is placed and up to 14 days after the goods are received. Online traders can withhold a refund however, until goods are returned.

Some goods cannot be returned if the consumer changes their mind. This includes items such as CDs; DVD’s or software where the seal on the wrapping has been broken or perishable items such as food or flowers and tailor-made or personalised goods.

In recent years, Trading Standards has become aware of young consumers experiencing difficulties in returning made to measure Christmas prom outfits from businesses based overseas, (e.g. China). Advice from trading standards is that consumers should be on their guard when ordering such items as if the item of clothing does not fit properly then the consumer may not have any rights to reject and receive a refund.

All online retailers have to give details of who they are and provide a geographical address and an email address at which to contact them. Before buying goods from an online marketplace trader/seller, consumers should make sure that the seller provides this information.

Consumers should also read terms and conditions regarding special price offers and sale items to ensure they receive the goods at the price advertised. Consumers should also check for extra charges such as ‘delivery charges’ which may not be added on to the final bill until the consumer pays for the goods.

Delivery of Goods – Failure to deliver on time

If an online marketplace trader has arranged the delivery of the goods, and the item has not turned up or it was delivered to the wrong location, then it is up to the online marketplace trader to put this right.

A consumer can also treat the contract as an end and claim a refund if:

• the online market trader has refused to deliver the goods

• delivery of the goods within the time specified was essential, taking into account all relevant circumstances.

Where there has been no agreement about when the goods will be delivered the goods must be delivered ‘without undue delay’ and in any event ‘no more than 30 days’ after the contract was entered into.

Remember to protect your payment.

Consumers should ensure that they protect their payment for goods either through Paypal or by debit/credit card when buying online. Payments for goods by Bankers draft/cheque are not protected so if the goods ordered never arrive, then it is unlikely that the consumer will get their money back.

Where consumers buy goods from a private individual either online or through an online marketplace, they do not have the same shopping rights as when buying from an online marketplace trader.

A consumer can only reject goods and ask for refund from an individual seller (or private seller) if the goods received are ‘not as described’. An individual seller may omit to tell the consumer if the goods have any faults. Consumers should check the seller rating and feedback to see what others have said about their purchasing experience and any terms and conditions before going ahead with their purchase.

Citizens Advice Consumer Service provided further information on consumers rights when purchasing from an online marketplace at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/NCW18/.

Consumers can also follow Highland Council Trading Standards for further advice on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/HCTradingStandards

Consumers can also speak to an advisor from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service (frontline telephone consumer advice service) on 03454 04 05 06 about consumer rights when buying goods online and how to resolve consumer disputes.

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