Many people are scared of shopping online as they don’t feel that they have the same rights as if they buy from a high street shop.
But in fact, shopping online gives you extra consumer protection!!!!
Do you often think twice about what might go wrong when you shop online? Many people feel there’s something about the lack of high street presence which makes them worry.
Some people like to have the tangible feel of a product in their hands & to be able to walk out of the shop physically holding the item that they’ve paid for. But for those that don’t, online shopping shouldn’t hold any fears.
The main concerns people have with shopping online are:
- What happens if the item I buy turns out to be faulty?
- Will I be able to send it back & get a refund?
- What if the item doesn’t turn up at all?
- How will I get my money back if the item’s lost?
For some, the fact that you can’t walk into the shop and complain to a sales assistant face-to-face gives less confidence in online shopping, than buying in a store. But lets get the facts straight about the differences in your rights between high street stores & online shopping.
Your rights on the high street
If I buy something at a high street store which either falls apart, or doesn’t work when I get it out of the box, I’m pretty sure I can take it back tomorrow and get my money back without any problems.
As a consumer you have important legal protection. Any goods you buy must be of satisfactory quality and must also be ‘as described‘ by the retailer and ‘fit for purpose‘.
But, unfortunately, if there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an item, you don’t automatically have the right to a refund just because you’ve changed your mind. You might find some retailers will let you have your money back in the name of good PR, but it’s not your right by law and more likely you’ll be offered a voucher/credit note that means you have to buy something else from the same store.
Your rights online
When it comes to shopping online you have exactly the same rights as high street shoppers. But and this is the great part; you get some extra protection too, under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000!
After making most online purchases, you’ll be entitled to a ‘cooling-off period‘. With products, the period begins as soon as you make your order, and ends seven working days after you have received the goods. But if you buy a service online (rather than a product), the seven days starts from date you order the items.
The ‘cooling off period’ actually means that you’ll be entitled to a refund for any reason in this seven day window! So, even if you decide that you’re not so keen on the colour of something once it arrives, or the item doesn’t quite look right where you wanted to put it, or its not got the exact feature that you thought it had, you can return it and get your money back, no questions asked!
But, the cooling-off period doesn’t apply to all online purchases. There are some (logical & reasonable) exceptions:
- Goods made to your specification
- Perishable goods such as flowers and fresh food
- CDs, DVDs, and tapes which are unsealed
- Newspapers and magazines
- Betting, gaming and lotteries
And, don’t forget with auctions and private sellers think ‘caveat emptor‘ or ‘buyer beware‘, because they can refuse to accept responsibility for the quality of any goods you buy from them. They can state that the item was in full working order when they sent it, or that you already knew about that tiny blemish.
Other key rules
The other main regulations which give the online shopper, protection are:
- You must be given clear information about the goods or services before you buy
- Your goods must be delivered within thirty days, unless you agree otherwise with the supplier. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll be entitled to a refund.
- Once you have notified the supplier in writing (or another durable medium) that you want to cancel your purchase, you must be fully refunded within 30 days.
Once again there are some exceptions to this. These rules and the cooling-off period doesn’t apply to financial products bought online (the financial services industry has its own regulations), or to contracts involving the sale of land.
What happens if goods are faulty, but the seven days are up?
It’s a good idea to check that goods you have bought aren’t defective as soon as you can. But don’t worry if you haven’t had enough time to examine them properly during the seven day cooling-off period (if you bought the item as a gift & couldn’t test it within the 7 days for example). If you later find a fault, then you still have rights to a refund, repair, replacement or compensation under the Sale of Goods Act.
Additional protection when using a credit card
Don’t forget, paying using your credit card is the best way to pay for your online shopping. If the supplier of your goods breaches the contract you have with them, you can actually claim costs from your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
This applies where the price of a single item is at least £100, and no more than £30,000. (Note that the protection still applies even if you don’t pay for the full purchase price using your card). This protection DOES NOT apply if you use a debit card however, so make sure you’re aware of this when shopping.
Section 75 provides very useful protection. Let’s say your supplier has sent you faulty goods but has since gone out of business. It may be impossible to get a refund from the supplier, but you can pursue your credit card company for redress instead.