Online retailers warned by the Office of Fair Trading

Posted on: October 13th, 2012 by Luke Faragher
What can you do?

Online retailers warned by OFT over excess charges and unfair terms – Is your website compliant?

In a statement released today the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) believes that more than a third of the UK’s largest online retailers are not compliant with the latest consumer rights laws.

On checking more than 150 of the UK’s most popular e-commerce websites, findings were that over 50 were not complying with various important consumer protection laws.

Most of these contraventions were surrounding returns, with many demanding restrictive policies that infringed customers rights. Other areas that were also a problem were found in excess charges that were added with no prior warning before the checkout procedure.

The OFT seems to have given those that are not compliant up to Christmas to update their systems before it takes a more serious action.

Packaging – Clothing retailers

The report has found that many popular online clothing retailers in the UK wrongly suggest that returns would only be accepted if they were in original packaging and in their original condition, a contradiction to legislation contained in the sale of goods and services act.

Online shopping: What your rights should be

  1. Goods must be delivered within 30 days, unless agreed otherwise
  2. You can cancel an order within seven working days in most cases (longer for financial products which can be up to 40 days) and get a full refund
  3. The refund should include any delivery charges, although you may have to pay for returns
  4. You don’t have to return the goods in their original packaging
  5. You are responsible for the safe return of items
  6. The retailer would have to pay for return postage if the items are going back because they are faulty or not as ordered

Email Contact – The correct Digital Contact for online retail

The OFT’s report seems to suggest that nearly two thirds of retailers failed to provide an email address, as opposed to a standard enquiry form, a clear violation of E-commerce and distance selling regulations here in the UK.

Hidden compulsory charges

A number of websites were also guilty of failing to notify the buyer that there would be compulsory charges before checkout. Prices often used in marketing materials were not shown to include these additional charges, with unsuspecting buyers being hit with confusing pricing structures. The worst of these were seen in card charges, booking, handling and luggage fees for a number of airlines.

What’s Next?

In a brief statement, the OFT stated;
“We encourage all online retailers to check their websites so customers can be confident their rights are being respected when they shop online.”
The OFT has now notified a number of the larger online retailers of their findings, urging them to make the necessary changes. They have noted that fines will be issued to those who fail to comply within a reasonable time.

What can you do to become compliant?

If you suspect that your website is not compliant with the OFT guidelines, you can seek help by watching their Buying online – know your consumer rights video. or by contacting us here at DiD, where we will be more than happy to talk you through the legislation and how we could make your website compliant by making a few small updates.

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