Shopping online has become increasingly popular and convenient but what if things don’t go to plan? It may pay to know your rights under the law.
When you are shopping online the same rights apply as when you are buying on the high street. Items must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. You also have rights under the law which apply to any purchase made by distance selling, this includes shopping by television, telephone, mail order as well as on the internet.
You must be given clear information about the goods or services prior to purchase and this must be confirmed in writing after you have made your purchase. You usually have a cooling off period where you can cancel your order for any reason, even if you have simply changed your mind.
The seven day cooling period usually starts the day after you receive the goods. The seller should inform you your right to a cooling off period, how to cancel your order and how to return goods. If you don’t get this information then your cooling off period extends to up to three months and seven days. If you decide to cancel your order within the cooling off period, you must inform the seller in writing and you may have to bear the cost of returning goods. The seller must refund your money within 30 days.
There are some transactions where you do not don’t have the right to a cooling off period. These include personalised or made to order items, perishable items including food, newspapers and magazines, items where a security seal is broken and when you pay for a service that starts immediately, such as paying for access to a website.
If you’ve been sent the wrong item or the item is faulty, you can return it and ask for your money back. The seller must cover the cost of returning the items.
“I bought what was described as an oil painting from an online auction,” says shopper Angela. “When it arrived it was only a print, not an original painting at all. The seller did not want to refund me at first but when I pointed out my rights under the law, they changed their mind and gave me a full refund.”
You also have the right to get your money back if items aren’t delivered by an agreed delivery date. If no delivery date is given you can get a refund if items are not delivered within 30 days.
“I ordered some decorations for a birthday party,” says shopper Gail. “They were supposed to arrive within a week as the party was two weeks later but nothing arrived. I contacted the seller and they had some supplier problems and they gave me a full refund.”
Remember that sellers can be based anywhere in the world and another country’s laws will apply if the seller is based outside of the UK. Check the sellers terms and conditions if you are not sure.
If you need to complain about something you have purchased, go back to the seller first. If you don’t get a satisfactory outcome straight away, then make your complaint in writing. If you’ve paid by credit card you can also complain to your credit card provider.
Advice on disputes is available from Consumer Direct. Tel: 08454 04 05 06