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Consumer Rights When Shopping Online

It pays to do some basic research before ordering goods on the Internet. Learn how to avoid a bad experience and know your rights when shopping online in United Kingdom.

How to Research Internet Businesses in UK

There are several ways that ordering and buying online can end as a bad experience. The most common include:

Three popular ways to shop the Internet are through a website, an online marketplace, or on a social media platform. No matter which you use, it can be difficult to know who you are actually dealing with.

To prove a point, a business may not be a UK based company even though the web address ends in ‘.co.uk’. But, there are ways to check if the seller has a contact address in the United Kingdom.

The best advice is to do some research, using the Internet, before you buy online. Internet research can help you spot problems with a business you are planning to deal with.

So how can you research an online business to see if it has a bad reputation? One way is to enter the business name and the word ‘scam’ into a search engine. You should see a list of results about that company. Other ways include searching forums and online reviews.

Check through any reviews and feedback given on Internet based sellers. But, beware of fake customer reviews as part of your general research.

There are common signs of fakes. They tend to be over-complimentary and somewhat ‘at odds’ with other reviews posted. So, always check several reviews to get a true picture of website trading.

Consumer Rights Online Shopping

As a consumer, you have legal rights when buying goods online from a trader. All goods bought online must:

  • Be of satisfactory quality.
  • Be as described and fit for the intended purpose.

In most cases, you should get a refund, replacement, or repair if there is a problem with the item. As a rule, you get thirty (30) days from the purchase date for product return and refunds.

Beside this, you should also get up to fourteen (14) days once you receive the goods to change your mind and get a full refund.

Note: If the trader cannot repair or replace the goods you would get up to six (6) months to claim a refund.

Buying from a Private Seller

Be aware that your rights as a consumer would differ if you buy goods online from a private seller. Take extra care when ordering items on social media platforms or at online marketplaces. Amazon, eBay, and Gumtree are among the most popular.

As a rule, there is only one requirement when you buy goods online from a private seller. The goods must be ‘as described’ by the seller. You could have practical difficulties trying to sort out an issue because the sellers may be outside the United Kingdom.

Note: The sale of goods and services law provides further information and guidance on sellers’ responsibilities.

Advice About Online Shopping

There are several preventative measures you can take before buying something online:

  • Avoid buying fake goods or copies. Ignorance would be little defense if you end up buying counterfeit goods online. Always check the small print on ‘free’ or ‘low-cost’ trial goods.
  • Buy from an official website if you are shopping online for events tickets.
  • Try to ensure the website you are going to buy from is authentic. Pay particular attention to the payment page and check it for security. A website URL address that starts with ‘https’ (with a closed padlock in the address bar) is verified and secured.
  • You should always avoid paying by bank or money transfers. These are the preferred payment methods used by Internet scammers.
  • It is best to pay for goods online using a credit or debit card (or other secure payment method e.g. PayPal).
  • Check for any unfair contract terms and conditions displayed by the seller. Read through any dispute resolution systems and consumer cancellation rights.
  • Always create a secure password (if needed) and log out of an online shopping account after making a payment.
  • Beware of emails or text messages from parcel delivery firms informing you to open an attachment for the delivery note. A genuine delivery firm would not send this kind of instruction.
  • Be extra cautious of any links or attachments in unexpected emails or text messages.
  • Some unscrupulous businesses may tell you to make a bank transfer because their card facilities ‘are down’. If this happens, the best advice would be to try buying from another online company instead.

Complaints about Online Shopping Websites

UK law protects consumers rights when buying goods or services through the Internet. Check who to contact for consumer protection advice and how to complain about a bad online experience.

Legal Rights of Consumers When Shopping Online in United Kingdom