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Buying from Overseas Sellers Online: Do Your UK Consumer Rights Apply?

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 5 Dec 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Buying From Overseas Sellers Online: Do Your Uk Consumer Rights Apply?

Buying rare or sought after items that would otherwise be difficult to source, is easier than ever. Shopping online has quite literally rendered the Internet into a borderless browsing marketplace, giving consumers more choice than ever before. However, although as the consumer you are based in the UK, when buying from overseas sellers, you may not be entitled to the same rights as stipulated by UK law.

UK OK?

If you would prefer to buy from a UK-based seller, but aren't sure whether the online retailer is registered business in the UK, there are several things you can look out for. Under UK law, the business seller must provide some key pieces of information to the consumer, the basis of which is outlined below.

The Sale of Goods Act requires the supplier to make sure that the items on sale are fit for purpose, as described and of satisfactory quality. The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations (2000) require the seller to divulge their registered business address. A PO Box number is not considered a valid address. Secondly, the seller should give the buyer clear information regarding their returns and cancellation policies, as well as delivery costs and arrangements. It is also compulsory for the seller to provide all of this information in writing. Finally, as a consumer using a UK-based seller, you have seven working days to change your mind (sometimes referred to as a 'cooling off period') and receive a full refund.

Take into account that just because a company has UK in the name or website domain (address), this not necessarily mean that the company is a registered UK based business. If you cannot validate or find any of the compulsory prior information, then it is best to avoid purchasing from the seller if you are adamant that you want to buy from inside the UK only.

Overseas

If you decide that you want to buy from an overseas seller, you should also consider a few points. The first key point is how you can sort out any potential disputes or problems with the purchase or delivery of the item. Remember that legal recourse may have to be taken in the country of the business you bought from, and could prove costly. Also take into account that (depending on the seller's returns policy) if you want to return the item, you may have to pay for the return delivery to an overseas country.

If a dispute has led to legal action, then you should seek legal advice as to whether you are still covered by some UK consumer law, as each case may differ. The contract terms should outline whether the contract itself is governed by UK law, or the law from which you bought the items.

You should also be aware that the country's consumer rights and regulations may not require the seller to disclose all 'hidden' costs such as shipping and packaging costs. If purchasing from within the European Union, all VAT should be included in the final price that you pay for the item. However, purchases made outside of the EU may well be liable to customs import duty and VAT. You should know where you are purchasing from so that you can calculate customs charges by visiting the UK's Customs and Excise website.

Complaints

If you have a complaint to make about the item, the best idea is to contact the supplier or seller directly. You could also try contacting the embassy of the country in question to ascertain what the consumer laws are. The US's Federal Trade Commission currently runs a database called Econsumer.gov, which is designed to help consumers register complaints regarding overseas Internet businesses and suppliers. A number of countries are signed up to this venture, allowing the consumer to gain access to their government law enforcement agencies. However, before signing up to any website or database, always read the small print regarding your privacy and how your details may be utilised in the future.

There are also a number of cross-border networks set up to help consumers to understand their rights in a global marketplace, as well as offering schemes to help resolve cross-border consumer disputes. The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) and International Consumer Protection and Enforcer Network (ICPEN) are two agencies currently operating within the UK.

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I recently bought a dress from America. I then received an email saying this product was out of stock and I should choose a different product to exchange it with. I have asked for a full refund as there is nothing I would like to replace it with! What are my rights in this situation if a refund is refused?
Emma - 5-Dec-18 @ 8:59 PM
I purchased a chain link fence from manomano ( a french and uk address) on 1st june 2018. We were working on our garden and employed professional fence erectors to put the chain link fence up. All in all, it was 12 weeks wait to have it put in place. Until that point the fence remained packed since delivery. When it came to putting it up, it proved impossible. When the tension wires were introduced and tightened the fence just unravelled and fell off the wire. It seemed there was no secure way to keep it all in place. I tried to call manomano but their phone lines were only open from 9-11 am and 1.30-3pm. So i then tried the online chat service, but it didnt work.so i sent an email. I then recieved a standard reply saying someone would get back to me within 48hours! Not so helpful when you now have no fence between you and the farm next door. We had to make an on the spot decision to have wooden panels erected at the cost of £1200. Afteremailing it became apparent that manomano were a website who advertised other companys products and the seller was not them but a company called vida xl. Days later i recieved a reply.They offered a partial refund, which i declined believing that i was entitled to a full refund. They then offered a replacemement, but this would be no help, since i had already had another fence erected ( one i didnt want). I then discovered that they were based overseas, so uk law would not apply to them. Has anyone any idea if i am protected with any kind of consumer law in this instance?
Simrose - 21-Sep-18 @ 9:36 PM
I purchased a chain link fence from manomano ( a french and uk address) on 1st june 2018. We were working on our garden and employed professional fence erectors to put the chain link fence up. All in all, it was 12 weeks wait to have it put in place. Until that point the fence remained packed since delivery. When it came to putting it up, it proved impossible. When the tension wires were introduced and tightened the fence just unravelled and fell off the wire. It seemed there was no secure way to keep it all in place. I tried to call manomano but their phone lines were only open from 9-11 am and 1.30-3pm. So i then tried the online chat service, but it didnt work.so i sent an email. I then recieved a standard reply saying someone would get back to me within 48hours! Not so helpful when you now have no fence between you and the farm next door. We had to make an on the spot decision to have wooden panels erected at the cost of £1200. Afteremailing it became apparent that manomano were a website who advertised other companys products and the seller was not them but a company called vida xl. Days later i recieved a reply.They offered a partial refund, which i declined believing that i was entitled to a full refund. They then offered a replacemement, but this would be no help, since i had already had another fence erected ( one i didnt want). I then discovered that they were based overseas, so uk law would not apply to them. Has anyone any idea if i am protected with any kind of consumer law in this instance?
Simrose - 21-Sep-18 @ 9:24 PM
I purchased a dress from milly bridal. I paid express delivery but the dress took 23 days to arrive instead of 9. I had to purchase another dress for my event. The dress arrived the morning of the event but was in need of alterations - something cited on the company’s website as something which may be required and which they would meet the cost of. The dress was poorly made. Milly Bridal are refusing to take the dress back. They claim there was no delay and the dress was made for me. I would need to bewell over 6 feet tall and wear heels for the dress to be anywhere near the right length.
Eve - 10-Jun-18 @ 1:09 PM
i bought a laptop from geekbuying it lasted a week i have been contacting them since jan they asked me to return via royal mail only royal mail will not accept any product with lithium battery it is impossible to return i am getting no where they offered me £52 partial refund as long as i returned itthe laptop cost me £138 i tried to get a chargeback from my bank but because i hadn't returned it they will not return my money i bought the postage online so i had proof i tried to return it at a cost to me of £25 still no joy have i got any more options its been 4 months still have a broken laptop and stillgetting nowhere
paul farrar - 31-Mar-18 @ 7:36 AM
I ordered 2 pairs of branded boots from a site called Barkenhowells which I thought was American - they were also showing a lot of Vans trainers. I paid over £80 (theses boots are no longer on sale in uk) This is a Chinese site.They offered me a refund for 1 pair (not received as yet) and sent a pair of cheap, plastic, unbranded ankle boots nothing like what I had ordered £10 value at most.I have entered into lengthy messaging - sending pictures, of packaging, the original order details etc.I will get in touch with my credit card but feel I have learnt an expensive lesson.
Toni - 15-Mar-18 @ 7:06 AM
katyp - Your Question:
I purchased online a sale item from Never Fully Dressed. It was explained sale items can only have a credit note rather than refund (not sure this is legal)?I returned the item and have been issued with a credit note valid only for 3 months - any advice? that feels like a small window!

Our Response:
No that's incorrect. The consumer contract regulations state thatl items bought online can be returned within 14 days for a full refund.Here's what Which says about the rules regarding credit notes:
The retailer may have a returns policy stating that it will only give customers a credit note or vouchers for returns. But this must only apply where customers are looking to return an unwanted item. Additionally, if you are returning your online order up to or within the 14 days from the day you received your goods, under the Consumer Contracts Regulations you can ask for a refund rather than a credit note.
OnlineShoppingRights - 2-Feb-18 @ 12:16 PM
I purchased online a sale item from Never Fully Dressed. It was explained sale items can only have a credit note rather than refund (not sure this is legal)? I returned the item and have been issued with a credit note valid only for 3 months - any advice? that feels like a small window!
katyp - 31-Jan-18 @ 8:22 PM
ACC - Your Question:
Hi, I ordered a Persian rug online, price quoted was €350, which I paid, and they confirmed the order. A week later they have contacted me to say that the wrong price was quoted, they have refunded my €350 and say that the correct price is €1900! There is no information on their site about where the company is based. What are my rights, doesn't the quoted purchase price and my payment constitute a contract?

Our Response:
No, not always. Check the terms and conditions. Many online retailers, state that a contract has not been formed until the goods are dispatched.
OnlineShoppingRights - 29-Jan-18 @ 10:57 AM
Hi, I ordered a Persian rug online, price quoted was €350, which I paid, and they confirmed the order. A week later they have contacted me to say that the wrong price was quoted, they have refunded my €350 and say that the correct price is €1900! There is no information on their site about where the company is based. What are my rights, doesn't the quoted purchase price and my payment constitute a contract?
ACC - 26-Jan-18 @ 8:50 AM
I ordered a 3d printer from china for my son for christmas which cost over £320it arrived this afternoon was ordered over a month ago was supposed to arrive over 2 weeks ago and the courier charged me £82 vat i contacted the company who said they cannot refund me bacause i never took out the insurance i was never aware of any vat cost or i would have paid the insurane surely they have a duty of care to make me aware of this.
Brad - 19-Dec-17 @ 3:06 PM
Hi, I purchased an item of clothing from a uk website registered as vivaluxe. I advised them that I want to return my item as it appeared different to its online picture. They have agreed to the return but have asked me to return the garment to the designer directly in India. Is this legal? I.e. Purchasing from a uk based company and then having to return to an address abroad? Thanks
Kay - 18-Dec-17 @ 9:43 PM
Mary - Your Question:
I placed a order on 17th November for a gift for Christmas from a American website. Delivery was free but no tracking offered. Delivery should take between 15-30 days. 30 days has been and gone so contacted the company who said it could take 40 days. When I pointed out their website said 30 days they then told me they can't do anything until 3 months has gone by because that is what the courier company states with regard to lost goods claims. They have told me it should all be resolved 4 months after my delivery due date. This doesn't seem right to me. I've been left with no present and have had to try and find another. What are my rights with regard to a refund please.

Our Response:
Unfortunately because it's an American website, the UK consumer laws will not apply, so it's very difficult for us to advise. Check the company's Terms and Conditions and see whether you can contact or whether you can say they've breached their contract etc. Even then, taking action might be difficult as their legal system is different. Will they allow you to cancel the order?
OnlineShoppingRights - 13-Dec-17 @ 3:27 PM
I placed a order on 17th November for a gift for Christmas from a American website. Delivery was free but no tracking offered. Delivery should take between 15-30 days. 30 days has been and gone so contacted the company who said it could take 40 days. When I pointed out their website said 30 days they then told me they can't do anything until 3 months has gone by because that is what the courier company states with regard to lost goods claims. They have told me it should all be resolved 4 months after my delivery due date. This doesn't seem right to me. I've been left with no present and have had to try and find another. What are my rights with regard to a refund please.
Mary - 13-Dec-17 @ 2:41 PM
Hi my daughter bought a bikini with gems on online from a uk company called modaminx. She just tried the bikini on and walked down to the pool and the gems kept falling out. She was lucky to have noticed the gems falling out and was able to collect them. On return from holiday she contacted the company who in return asked her to send photos which she did. They sent back an email telling her that she could just push the gems back in and she could send the bikini back if she liked for them to push the gems!She wrote an email back saying that at £60 she shouldn't have to keep putting the gems in and having to retrace her steps every time she wears the bikini to pick up the jewels and under the sale of goods act it was not fit for the purpose it was bought for abd would like a full refund. What steps should she take if they will not give her a refund? Kind regards Roselyn Daly
Rose - 1-Sep-17 @ 5:57 PM
Buttons - Your Question:
My mother bought a dress online from overseas. When it arrived it had 2 dirty greasy marks on the shoulders and was clearly not fit for the purpose it was bought. Upon complaining we were told to send pictures of the marks which we did. Then received the reply that if we sent it back it would be costly for us and it might go missing! Further emails were sent and they are saying that a 5% refund is all they'll give. it's an outrage as it's not our fault! Now my mother is out of pocket. What can we do?

Our Response:
You have not said which country you purchased from. If it's from somewhere outside of the EU, we cannot really advise which laws might apply. Your credit card company might be able to help.
OnlineShoppingRights - 6-Jun-17 @ 11:59 AM
Hi, I bought something from a US website. While its returns policy states that they do not ever issue refunds, I wonder if this is a legally enforceable policy? I used to run an online shop in the UK and actually lost a small claims court case when I refused to take back a custom-made item. The customer argued that under the Distance Seller Regulation, anything can be returned. So, with this US store, is there any way I can argue that under Distance Seller Regulation I can get may money back? I realise the store is governed by US law, but if it doesn't like the UK consumer protection, surely it shouldn't sell to the UK. Any advice? Thanks!
missetoile - 5-Jun-17 @ 10:38 AM
My mother bought a dress online from overseas. When it arrived it had 2 dirty greasy marks on the shoulders and was clearly not fit for the purpose it was bought. Upon complaining we were toldto send pictures of the marks which we did. Then received the reply that if we sent it back it would be costly for us and it might go missing! Further emails were sent and they are saying that a 5% refund is all they'll give... it's an outrage as it's not our fault! Now my mother is out of pocket. What can we do?
Buttons - 3-Jun-17 @ 2:24 PM
A couple of updates which might prove useful where consumers want to quote "chapter and verse" to retailers, whether on-line or at stores: 1. the law requiring goods to be of satisfactory quality etc. are now in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) rather than the Sale of Goods Act (SOGA) -SOGA generally only applies between businesses since the CRA came into force 2. the law allowing consumers to cancel contracts and return goods bought over the internet etc. are now in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regs 2013.
commercial law guru - 4-Apr-17 @ 4:57 PM
Ibought a pair of boots on what I think know is a Chinese website,called the bull and spice. I spent £99.25 and they have sent me a different style of boots which I would not wear. The website says not to return anything until you have written to them and hear back from them with instructions.I have just emailed them but have a feeling I will not hear back, and I believe there is a time limit for returns. What should I do? Many thanks.
Beatriz - 23-Feb-17 @ 11:34 PM
Lyn - Your Question:
I ordered, and paid by card, £50 for a pair of smart leather shoes on a Chinese website. They sent me a pair of horrible cheap imitation trainers which I would NEVER wear. After 5 weeks of messaging, they are finally offering me 10 Euros. I don't know whether to accept this (but would I ever receive it?) or hold out for more !

Our Response:
The problem is that China is not accountable under UK/EU consumer legislation. Will your credit card company help at all?
OnlineShoppingRights - 13-Oct-16 @ 2:32 PM
I ordered, and paid by card, £50 for a pair of smart leather shoes on a Chinese website.They sent me a pair of horrible cheap imitation trainers which I would NEVER wear.After 5 weeks of messaging, they are finally offering me 10 Euros.I don't know whether to accept this (but would I ever receive it?) or hold out for more !
Lyn - 12-Oct-16 @ 4:32 PM
I recently purchased a bracelet online from singapore. It was faulty. Do I have any comebacks with them ? They offered me a fraction of the original price I paid !
jane - 2-Mar-16 @ 4:11 PM
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