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Returns Policy and Internet Shopping

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 16 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Returns Policy Internet Shopping Online

You probably already know that shopping for goods and services on the Internet can be exceptionally convenient, gives you much wider choice, and offers significant cost savings. But are you aware of your rights and protections as an Internet shopper in the UK? A recent survey indicates that most online shoppers were not aware of their rights, but were willing to take a chance anyway. The good news is that you might be safer than you think, especially with regards to returns policies and the opportunity to change your mind.

Why Return?

You may be wondering why the returns policy is so important when it comes to internet shopping, especially if you have never returned an item before. When you purchase something in a real shop, it's easy to see what you're buying. However, it's not as easy to evaluate the colour, feel or quality of an item displayed on a computer monitor. This is why consumers have been given the option to reject the item once they see it for real.

One thing to keep in mind is that your consumer rights are fairly solid when you purchase goods from a UK-based company (even if they are importing goods from elsewhere). If you purchase from overseas Internet companies, then you are on shakier legal ground. So it's important to do your homework before completing your purchase. It's possible to have "uk" in the web address without the company actually being located in the UK. Just confirm the seller's location and be aware of where your item is coming from.

Cooling Off & Cancellations

One major advantage that UK online shoppers have over real world buyers is a statutory "cooling-off" period of seven days. When you purchase an item in a brick-and-mortar store, you can generally only return faulty items. If you simply change your mind or decide you don't like the colour, you have no recourse. However, you can cancel an online transaction and receive a refund anytime in the first seven working days for any reason...or no reason. And that's seven working days after you receive the item, so in reality you may have even more time measured from the moment you placed the order.

You are required to notify the seller in writing. Although you have a responsibility to take reasonable care of the items you purchased, the seller cannot demand that items be returned in their original packaging. There are some exceptions to the cooling-off period. Items like software, DVDs and CDs usually cannot be returned. The same goes for perishable goods and anything that was custom made just for you.

The good news is that this cooling-off period also applies to online retailers based elsewhere in the EU. Currently, about 97 percent of UK consumers order from EU-based companies. Transactions with retailers in the rest of the world are not provided with statutory protections. Anytime you consider purchasing from non-EU sellers, you should confirm that their returns policy is acceptable to you.

If you buy an item from a private seller in an online auction, that transaction is exempted from the cooling-off period. The only time you would have a legal option to return your purchase is if the item turns out to be significantly different from the online description.

Online shopping provides you with a high level of choice, convenience and discounts. But the most savvy online consumers are well-informed regarding their rights. Make sure you know where your chosen retailer is based and confirm that their returns policy is in compliance with the law.

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I purchased two shirts size small for my son online both 60 each from a website he has purchased items before.However when they come they certainly not small they can wrap round him twiceI tried to contact them as they say you need a return code. I could not get in touch with them but my son managed to. They say because it was a sale item. It was Black Friday deal that we can only have an exchange even though the item is back up to full price.However we don't want to exchange for anything else if the sizes are that big then nothing will fit him.Is this not a trade description act as they should have in the description like baggy tshirt or something along those lines.Look forward to hearing from you
Traci - 16-Dec-17 @ 3:42 PM
Please advise... I ordered an expensive men's aftershave and received cheap woman's perfume from the perfume shop. The telephone number provided is a waste of space- automated with no option to speak to a human being or leave a message. I have sent 3 emails in the last 24 hours with no response. No instructions regarding returns. What are my rights? What course of action can I take?
Hells bells - 13-Dec-17 @ 8:13 PM
Joy (UK) - Your Question:
Hi, I bought a fitbit Alta online, it worked for two days then stopped working. I immediately got in touch with fitbit and had to ask for a refund (their default options were a replacement or 50% towards a different product). Fitbit eventually agreed to this but advised I need to post (and track) the faulty fitbit to the Netherlands, and the postage would be at my expense as per their returns policy. I emailed to dispute that postage is at my expense, quoting the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as the fitbit was not fit for purpose, a breach of contract and I should not lose out financially. However, a reply from fitbit today states that postage will not be reimbursed. As you can imagine, I am not happy about this and do not see why I should be out of pocket (not to mention inconvenienced) because of a faulty item they sent. Please can you advise what I can do now, or who I should contact? Many thanksJoy

Our Response:
Did you buy directly from Fibit (they are not UK based) or from Uk reseller? Sorry it's not clear who you bought it from. Your initial returns queries for faulty goods or simply goods you want to return within 14 days should be directed to the retailer not the manufacturer.
OnlineShoppingRights - 20-Oct-17 @ 2:18 PM
Hi, I bought a fitbit Alta online, it worked for two days then stopped working. I immediately got in touch with fitbit and had to ask for a refund (their default options were a replacement or 50% towards a different product). Fitbit eventually agreed to this but advised I need to post (and track) the faulty fitbit to the Netherlands, and the postage would be at my expense as per their returns policy. I emailed to dispute that postage is at my expense, quoting the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as the fitbit was not fit for purpose, a breach of contract and I should not lose out financially. However, a reply from fitbit today states that postage will not be reimbursed. As you can imagine, I am not happy about this and do not see why I should be out of pocket (not to mention inconvenienced) because of a faulty item they sent. Please can you advise what I can do now, or who I should contact? Many thanks Joy
Joy (UK) - 20-Oct-17 @ 10:03 AM
Helste - Your Question:
My daughter ordered a dress from a Chinese conpany that advertised itself as US based,but obviously isn't. The item took over 12 weeks to arrive and now it has, is nothing like the description and photo on the website plus is so badly made and tiny it is unwearable. The whole thing is held together with hard glue and is sealed up in parts plus has holes and is so tiny a child couldn't wear it. It cost a lot of money. I know she is naive buying from a company like this but she is young. Please can you help in advising of her rights. There was no invoice in the parcel or any way of returning or gaining a refund. Thanks.

Our Response:
Not really. If she paid by credit her card, the card company might be able to help?
OnlineShoppingRights - 4-Oct-17 @ 2:27 PM
Niki88 - Your Question:
HiI have ordered a wedding dress online the company based in Hong Kong. The dress awful nothing like what was on the pictures and the size wrong so everything basically. Their return policy say 7 days after I received the dress I wrote them I want to send back and I want my money back obviously but they dont want to do. What can I do???Thanks

Our Response:
Unfortunately as the retailer is not UK based, our consumer laws will not apply. Did you pay by credit card? Your card company might be able to assist.
OnlineShoppingRights - 4-Oct-17 @ 12:46 PM
My daughter ordered a dress from a Chinese conpany that advertised itself as US based,but obviously isn't.The item took over 12 weeks to arrive and now it has, is nothing like the description and photo on the website plus is so badly made and tiny it is unwearable. The whole thing is held together with hard glue and is sealed up in parts plus has holes and is so tiny a child couldn't wear it. It cost a lot of money. I know she is naive buying from a company like this but she is young. Please can you help in advising of her rights. There was no invoice in the parcel or any way of returning or gaining a refund. Thanks.
Helste - 3-Oct-17 @ 9:36 PM
Hi I have ordered a wedding dress online the company based in Hong Kong. The dress awful nothing like what was on the pictures and the size wrong so everything basically. Their return policy say 7 days after i received the dress i wrote them i want to send back and i want my money back obviously but they dont want to do. What can i do??? Thanks
Niki88 - 2-Oct-17 @ 10:00 PM
Frank - Your Question:
Hello,I purchased 4 items of clothing online and when they arrived I had been sent completely the wrong items, except for the fact that there was 4 items and all sized mediums like I ordered. I have sent over 10 emails to the company all of which have been ignored, I have also emailed the email provided for payment inquiries but that has been ignored also. I made the order on the 5th August and received the items roughly 7 days later, it is now the 28th August and no progress has been made.The website only provides an email to contact them, no phone number and no location either. i have absolutely no idea where to turn, please advise I'd really appreciate it as the order cost me over £120.Many thanks, Frank.

Our Response:
Any website selling/trading online should provide a business name, contact details and address. There should also be terms and conditions stating how to deal with returns etc. As we don't know which trader you're dealing with, we can't check this ourselves but it sounds as though they're being very unprofessional. The only thing we can suggest is if there is a company number listed on their website, try and find the address via Companies House. Write to this address (and send a copy via email too), saying you are going to seek legal action to recover your money plus compensation for the time and inconvenience in follow it up. Report the company to Trading Standards as well.
OnlineShoppingRights - 4-Sep-17 @ 11:17 AM
Hi, I bought three set top boxes of a private seller through Paypal and after a few weeks all three stopped working. I emailed the seller numerous times and he was fine and offered to repair or replace them and asked me to return them. I returned them to the address he gave me and Parcel force have confirmed it was delivered and signed for to that address.Subsequently he has since confirmed he has the items in his possession and would be replacing them. However, 6 weeks later I have no replacement goods and he has kept my payment in full, he is now ignoring all my emails and communications. I have tried to claim through Paypal but because the address he gave me is different to the one on his account they rejected my claim and settled in the sellers favour. In addition, I have written proof via email from the seller that he has the items in his possession and the address he gave me to send it too however Paypal refuse to accept my claim as it is not "Paypal policy" to accept emails as proof. Please, please can someone help me as I am currently almost £400 out of pocket and with no items at all. Thanks
Kevin - 30-Aug-17 @ 4:27 PM
Hello, I purchased 4 items of clothing online and when they arrived I had been sent completely the wrong items, except for the fact that there was 4 items and all sized mediums like I ordered. I have sent over 10 emails to the company all of which have been ignored, i have also emailed the email provided for payment inquiries but that has been ignored also. I made the order on the 5th August and received the items roughly 7 days later, it is now the 28th August and no progress has been made. The website only provides an email to contact them, no phone number and no location either. i have absolutely no idea where to turn, please advise i'd really appreciate it as the order cost me over £120. Many thanks, Frank.
Frank - 28-Aug-17 @ 8:08 PM
Teds - Your Question:
Hi, I bought a mattress from an online company with free delivery, but when the item arrived it wasn't as pictured on the website, I mean it looks like a completely different mattress, and the only similarities are that They were both coil sprung with a memory foam layer, but the company does state on the website that colour and stitching may vary. So after asking them for a full refund (which they confirmed), they collected the mattress and have now taken a £20 charge out of the refund for the collection fee (which they said they wouldn't do). Is this legal? And is it legal for them to advertise the wrong image for a product but state that colour and stitching may vary for example?

Our Response:
What is different apart from the colour and the stitching? If you can pinpoint something in particular that makes it obvious that it's different, i.e the depth of the mattress or the fabric it's made from etc, then you can return it as "not as described" - this means you shouldn't pay the return costs. If you are simply returning on under consumer rights legislation that means you can return items purchased online within 14 days, you may have to pay return costs.
OnlineShoppingRights - 7-Aug-17 @ 10:48 AM
Hi, I bought a mattress from an online company with free delivery, but when the item arrived it wasn't as pictured on the website, I mean it looks like a completely different mattress, and the only similarities are that They were both coil sprung with a memory foam layer, but the company does state on the website that colour and stitching may vary. So after asking them for a full refund (which they confirmed), they collected the mattress and have now taken a £20 charge out of the refund for the collection fee (which they said they wouldn't do). Is this legal? And is it legal for them to advertise the wrong image for a product but state that colour and stitching may vary for example?
Teds - 3-Aug-17 @ 2:40 AM
JEN - Your Question:
Hi. I ordered a scooter from Halfords online 26/7 and after paying for it realised the delivery date would be longer than I expected so called them straight away to cancel the order. However they are refusing to refund my money until they have received confirmation from the supplier to say the order has been cancelled by themselves and has not been dispatched. Which seems to be taking a long time. Looking for some advice on Halfords refusing a refund until this time.

Our Response:
If the order has been processed, it's simple, just return it via your usual conumer rights to return items bought online. You have only allowed them two days (or maybe less at the time of writing) to establish whether the order has been processed, picked, despatched and to get back to you with a response.
OnlineShoppingRights - 31-Jul-17 @ 2:23 PM
Hi,I recently bought garden willow online. It cost £17.99 with free p&p.When it arrived I realised I needed a 2m height Willis instead of the 1.7m I accidentally ordered. On contacting Primrose they said they would offer a full refund but I would need to pay for p&p. The charge to return product is £17.26.Their response is to sell it on eBay. All I wanted was an exchange.What can I do?
Maxxy - 31-Jul-17 @ 11:52 AM
Hi. I ordered a scooter from Halfords online 26/7and after paying for it realised the delivery date would be longer than I expected so called them straight away to cancel the order. However they are refusing to refund my money until they have received confirmation from the supplier to say the order has been cancelled by themselves and has not been dispatched. Which seems to be taking a long time. Looking for some advice on Halfords refusing a refund until this time.
JEN - 28-Jul-17 @ 12:15 PM
meghan123 - Your Question:
Hi,I recently ordered alot of swimwear from the website 'shein' for choice. But they say they do not accept returns of swimwear. (I was not aware of this when ordering)All of the items are unused and still have the 'hygiene sticker' in them, so do they have to accept the return and give me a refund?thanks.

Our Response:
Yes some retailers extend the "hygiene" exceptions to cover swimwear. As long as they make this clear on their website then there's not a great deal you can do.
OnlineShoppingRights - 28-Jul-17 @ 10:34 AM
Hi, I recently ordered alot of swimwear from the website 'shein' for choice. But they say they do not accept returns of swimwear. (I was not aware of this when ordering) All of the items are unused and still have the 'hygiene sticker' in them, so do they have to accept the return and give me a refund? thanks.
meghan123 - 25-Jul-17 @ 2:32 PM
Simonz - Your Question:
I purchased a dress from an online retailer, it unfortunately didn't fit and I returned within 48 hours, the retailer is refusing a refund as the dress was in the sale and their terms and conditions listed on their site says no refunds will be given on sale items, only a credit note or exchange. Is this correct?

Our Response:
No, any item bought online can be returned unused within 14 days for a full refund.
OnlineShoppingRights - 25-Jul-17 @ 12:53 PM
I purchased a dress from an online retailer, it unfortunately didn't fit and I returned within 48 hours, the retailer is refusing a refund as the dress was in the sale and their terms and conditions listed on their site says no refunds will be given on sale items, only a credit note or exchange. Is this correct?
Simonz - 19-Jul-17 @ 10:35 AM
Marina - Your Question:
Hello.I bought made to order wedding dress from a web site claiming to be a UK-based compny.When I received the trucking number I saw the dress traveled through Germany and France,so I guess it's comming from an Asian country.When I opened the parcel the dress was not as described.In the product description it says satin and it actually is tulle.Also there was detachable part of the dress which is not detachable because it's sewed on to the dress.The cut is mistaken,but I guess this is a bit dificult to argue.I e-mailed the seller with all my concerns and they are refusing a refund.They do offered me a discount for next purchase,which will not happen after my experience.What can I do to get a refund and send the dress back?

Our Response:
If they are claiming to be in the UK, then you should be able to take action under the Consumer Rights Act. Ask them for their UK address. Then write to them giving details of how you feel the item has been incorrectly described. If they are not operating from the UK but claim they are, try the ISPA -you might at least be able prevent other people having the same experience.
OnlineShoppingRights - 3-Jul-17 @ 2:06 PM
Hello. I bought made to order wedding dress from a web site claiming to be a UK-based compny.When I received the trucking number I saw the dress traveled through Germany and France,so I guess it's comming from an Asian country. When I opened the parcel the dress was not as described.In the product description it says satin and it actually is tulle.Also there was detachable part of the dress which is not detachable because it's sewed on to the dress.The cut is mistaken,but I guess this is a bit dificult to argue.I e-mailed the seller with all my concerns and they are refusing a refund.They do offered me a discount for next purchase,which will not happen after my experience.What can I do to get a refund and send the dress back?
Marina - 2-Jul-17 @ 10:45 AM
Sam - Your Question:
I purchased some strip eyelashes and assumed they were made of synthetic material when actually they are human hair, I've contacted the online company to return these and they have declined to refund. On their website it's says all sales are final in the terms and conditions it also says they only accept returns of faulty goods. However they don't mention the composition of their lashes on the website and they ar claiming they don't have to. They also have said due to the nature of the product and hygiene reasons they can't accept the return even though I have not opened them. They are saying they wouldn't be able to re sell. Is this right.

Our Response:
There is an element of caveat emptor here (buyer beware). If the material was important to you at the time of ordering, then maybe you should have investigated this before making the purchase. We're unsure whether eyelashes come under similar exemptions as, for example, earrings for pierced ears, sorry.
OnlineShoppingRights - 15-Jun-17 @ 11:48 AM
HiI bought a woven shopping basket online.When I received it the handles were so small the back of my hand was being scraped by the basket.I contacted the company and sent pictures and they said that they have not had that complaint before and I could send it back for a refund.I paid for the return postage costs.They refunded the cost of the basket only.I emailed and asked for a refund of the postage costs both for sending and returning the bag.The seller said that they had looked at the handles and felt they were fine so the bag was not faulty.As a gesture of goodwill they refunded the postage costs I paid when I purchased the bag but not the £6.00 I paid to return the bag.I pointed out that the photo on their website showed much larger handles but they refused to refund the postage.Is this correct under the law?Thank you
teebag - 14-Jun-17 @ 11:30 PM
I purchased some strip eyelashes and assumed they were made of synthetic material when actually they are human hair, I've contacted the online company to return these and they have declined to refund. On their website it's says all sales are final in the terms and conditions it also says they only accept returns of faulty goods. However they don't mention the composition of their lashes on the website and they ar claiming they don't have to. They also have said due to the nature of the product and hygiene reasons they can't accept the return even though I have not opened them. They are saying they wouldn't be able to re sell. Is this right.
Sam - 12-Jun-17 @ 12:02 PM
Hi I bought a pair of towels from Argos online and collected in store . They offer a 30 day back money guarantee for items in a resaleable condition . As I paid online and collected in store the distance selling regulation does not apply . I cannot have a refund as the bag was torn to be opened . I think this is all unfair as the item was not able to be open with out tearing the bag it came in. Is there anything I can do?
Sue Palam - 29-May-17 @ 3:10 PM
ThirstyKirsty - Your Question:
Hello,I work for an online retailer of used item and wonder, when a customer reports to us that something is faulty, if they can't support their claim with a photo, are we within our rights to ask for the item to be returned if we pay the return postage?Thanks,ThirstyKirsty.

Our Response:
If the goods are faulty within the first 6 months following purchase, it is not up to the consumer to prove their claim, it's up to the retailer to prove the fault wasn't there at the time of purchase/of satisfactory quality/fit for purpose. Yes ask for items to be returned in a convenient way at no cost to them (the retailer must bear the cost of postage when faulty goods are returned).
OnlineShoppingRights - 24-May-17 @ 12:24 PM
Hello, I work for an online retailer of used item and wonder, when a customer reports to us that something is faulty, if they can't support their claim with a photo, are we within our rights to ask for the item to be returned if we pay the return postage? Thanks, ThirstyKirsty.
ThirstyKirsty - 23-May-17 @ 9:31 AM
Abc - Your Question:
Hi, I bought a facial brush originally in Feb 2017 and fast forward to now I have been given another one as a replacement in May 2017. The replacement I have received is damaged, unpresentable, dented and scuffed and even the retailer agrees it is unacceptable yet I have been told I cannot get a refund as I originally bought it in Feb 2017. I received my replacement less than 2 weeks ago so does the 14 day rule still apply to me? I don't know if it makes a difference that I was falsely reassured my replacement would be of a satisfactory quality?

Our Response:
If a replacement is faulty you have the right to a refund or replacement - it's not your fault that the retailer took so long to repace it.
OnlineShoppingRights - 22-May-17 @ 12:57 PM
Louise - Your Question:
I ordered a dress to be made, sent through all my correct measurements and colours etc. It has been a long haul but finally received the dress and not one part of it fits me. It is the length of a top in the first instance but even more, it's almost twice my body width, therefore completely unfit for purpose. It appears the retailers are in Asia and are dragging the whole process out even though I have sent them pictures of the dress clearly showing the top is 3.5 inches shorter than requested in the measurements but this is not enough for them they want a video proving my measurements and are saying that I have provided the wrong measurements and would provide 50% refund if I wasn't happy but only after I've sent them the piece of material back with a tracking number which will mean special delivery. Does anyone have any advice on my stance with this as in the UK they are in breach of contract but I wasn't sure internationally? Any advice appreciated. Thank you Louise

Our Response:
No unfortunately, because the retailer is based outside the European Union (EU) your rights will depend on the laws of the country where the trader is based. You can try complaining to your credit card company if you paid by card. You could also try out if the country from which you purchased the garment has a consumer complaints organisation and try that.
OnlineShoppingRights - 22-May-17 @ 10:55 AM
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