Know your rights when shopping online

March 15, 2017 is World Consumer Rights Day, organised by Consumers International. This year’s theme is 'Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust'.

In a world where we’re buying more online it’s essential for us to know our rights and how to complain when things go wrong. Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! shares what you need to know.

  1. Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 consumers have 14 days cooling off period for changing their minds. There are some exceptions to this, such as bespoke items. Whether or not return postage has to be paid depends on the trader’s terms and conditions.
  2. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you can reject any goods that are faulty, do not match the description or have not lasted a reasonable length of time. The seller must refund you and pay return postage in any of these events.
  3. Up to 30 days after purchase you are entitled to a full refund for items that are not of satisfactory quality or do not match the description. After this time you may have to accept a repair or replacement.
  4. If you have paid for a dated or timed delivery and this has not happened, you are entitled to any out of pocket expenses you incurred.
  5. The above rules also apply to digital goods, such as downloaded computer software, games and films.
  6. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also states that goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.
  7. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides specific coverage for digital content. Digital content must not be supplied by the retailer within the 14 cooling-off period unless the customer has agreed to it. Once the download starts the cancellation right is lost. If the customer does not give agree to the terms then s/he will have to wait until after 14 days before downloading.
  8. Your contract is always with the company (or individual) to whom you paid the money. It is not with the courier. Do not be fobbed off when the retailer tells you to contact the courier company. Make the retailer take the time and effort to resolve the situation. It is the retailer who will also have to provide the redress, if necessary, not the courier.
  9. Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, traders need the active consent of the consumer for all payments – e.g. pre-ticked boxes for additional payments. You are not liable for costs which you have not been told pre-contract you must bear.
  10. You may think you are covered by Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for items over £100 bought on a credit card. However, should you complete a credit card transaction through a third party payment service, the credit card provider and the seller are no longer in a direct relationship, so are not equally liable. This exception applies to PayPal, Worldpay and Google checkout, for example.

Too often consumers get fobbed off because they don't know their rights. Helen says: “By ensuring that these laws are observed, and seeking enforcement where necessary consumers can make smarter choices when shopping online and get justice if things go wrong.”