Home > Consumer Rights > Understanding Terms and Conditions When Shopping Online

Understanding Terms and Conditions When Shopping Online

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 2 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Understanding Terms And Conditions

The phrase "always read the small print" comes to mind when discussing the issues of consumerism and terms and conditions. This is especially pertinent when considering online shopping, where under UK law a supplier must provide the consumer with their sale policies before any purchase is made.

Overlooking terms and conditions set out on a website could result in ungrounded complaints made by the consumer. So before making a purchase, it is always important for the consumer to check over the terms and conditions of the sale, to both familiarise themselves with those terms as well as making sure that they are fully aware of the service that they should expect to receive once the contract has been made. This article summarises why terms and conditions exist, and why they are so important the online shopper.

Defining Terms

Essentially, when a buyer purchases goods or services, they are entering into a contract with the supplier. Many online sales are governed by a set of regulations and parliamentary acts which are designed to protect the consumer against unscrupulous sellers or unfair terms and conditions. The regulations and acts also allow the consumer to have certain legal rights, which are either expressed or implied.

The phrase 'implied terms' relates to those rights that are understood to exist, but have not been guaranteed, written down or agreed to. This includes many statutory consumer rights as outlined in the Distance Selling Regulations 2000 and Sale of Goods 1979 Act. Some of the most fundamental and pertinent implied terms are that goods sold by a business should be 'as described', of satisfactory quality, and fir for purpose.

'Express terms' relate to the more explicit terms that are usually set out in writing. Both parties must approve these sorts of terms before the contract is established, and these terms are more often than not the requisites that will appear in any online trader's terms and conditions. Examples of express or explicit terms include the price of the goods or service, the delivery costs and delivery arrangements.

Regulations

By law suppliers are obliged to outline certain prior information (before a purchase is made) about their business and the goods or services on sale. This includes information such as the delivery arrangements and costs, and information regarding the business's address and contact details. But it's always worth having some preliminary knowledge about your consumer rights when looking over any terms and conditions set out by an online supplier. This is because although some terms can be implied and will be enforced by the law, in some instances the supplier can set out alternatives terms and conditions of sale, which if agreed to will become legally binding.

One such example is returns policies. If no returns policy is stated within the terms and conditions, then it is assumed (and enforced by law) that the supplier will pay for the cost of any returned items, and that refunds for online purchases will be made in full and within 30 days of the goods being delivered, or services having begun. However, suppliers are within their rights to state alternative arrangements whereby the consumer will foot the cost of any returns. These arrangements should be deemed to be fair to the consumer, as the law states that the alternative arrangement shouldn't cause "significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations under the contract, to the detriment of consumers."

Another slightly different example is the right to a 7 day cooling-off period in which the consumer can change their mind about online purchases. Although this is a consumer right, the supplier is obliged to state this in their terms and conditions. If it is not stated, then the cooling-off period is automatically extended to 30 days.

Unfair Terms

When shopping online, having read through a contract you may come across a term that you feel infringes your consumer rights. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (UTCCRs) were brought into UK law to protect consumers against terms that, as aforementioned, cause imbalance to their obligations under the contract.

The UTCCRs also stipulate that terms must be set out in plain and intelligible language. This is so that all terms and conditions do not to appear misleading, deceitful or ambiguous, and can be clearly understood so that the consumer is able to make an informed choice. If, as a consumer you feel that you have become subject to an unfair term, if the law agrees, then the term will not be regarded as binding. If you would like to take your complaint further than the supplier, then the Office of Fair Trading is the UK body that has the power to enforce unfair terms that have been set out by traders under UK jurisdiction.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Advice please. I’ve been a recent shopper with Morrison’s online grocery, until a couple of weeks ago I’ve had no problems with the quality or delivery of my purchases. I tried to place my weekly grocery order when at checkout I had a message reading payment failure please call customer services. Calling customer services this is the response, we have blocked your account because it has a link on it! I asked what this link was but was told because of data protection they couldn’t tell me only that a payment failed, I stressed the payment failure was nothing to do with me and why has my account got another consumer linked, after a frustrating couple of minutes I repeated that who ever was linked to my account needed to be unlinked as this was unfair. Within an hour I was able to carry on and place my order. This is where I would like your advice After nearly a dozen emails this is my lastest response from Morrison’s : I do apologise forthe inconvenience you have been caused through no fault of your own regarding the linking of your account to another with a failed payment. I do understand that this may have caused a lot of frustration and confusing. I will try to answer your questions in this email to explain how this works and why it happened to you. Here at Morrisons online we do not take any payment for the deliveries we make until they have been delivered, this is to make sure we are not charging for any items customers handback to drivers that they may be unhappy with. With this sometimes customer payments fail meaning or finance team may put a block on the account in question until we have been able to collect any funds due. Within this process blocks may be placed on other accounts with linking information. This includes things like telephone numbers, postcodes or other personal details. This is what caused you account to be blocked also. Due to data protection laws I am unable to confirm what the linked details may have been but I can assure you this link has now been removed. These links are put in place to protect both customers and the business from fraudulent orders that may be placed within accounts. Although it does not specifically state this within our terms and conditions what may happen in this instance we do however state that we do carry out checks of our personal information and that “If any problems arise from these checks, we may request additional proof of age, identity or other information to be sent to Customer Services via email (for example, photo ID such as a driving licence or passport). We reserve the right to reject or cancel an order at our discretion at any time if we consider that our checks have not been satisfied in full.” Also that “We reserve the right to terminate our contract with you if we are refused authority for payment or reasonably believe that payment will be refused at any stage. We will attempt to contact you if this is the case.” Legally we do not have to state what ste
Mary - 2-Aug-18 @ 9:16 PM
Badger. - Your Question:
I bought a Tower 4L Pressure Cooker from Ideal World Tv,it stated on there web-sightthat the Pressure cooker was suitable for use on induction hobs so I purchased on thatbasis,Pressure Cooker arrived,on the side of the box it said not suitable for use on induction hobs,done very simple test to check,used a fridge magnet to test the pot,did not stick so was not suitable,as the pot was made from cast Aluminium which is noneferrous,meaning not suitable on induction.Contacted Ideal World Tv told them that it was not suitable,explained the reason for my statement that the unit was not suitable,was told by a customer service agent in India that I was wrong and hung up the phone me,i contacted Ideal World Tv HQ in the UK,contacted the Director of customer services Mr David Pecc,he told me he would look into the matter,and get back to me ,he never did,a female member of staff contacted me by email,but has never once phoned,i also contacted Tower they confirmed to me that I was correct,because they asked me for the serial number on the box,they checked and came back to me to confirm that the unit could not be used on a induction hob,i contacted my credit card provider MBNA,they told me if the goods bought on my credit card are under £100 they are not compelled to do anything to recover my money on my credit card,so much for credit card protection,so I would advise anybody reading this,to go and check out what I am saying,if the goods that you pay for are under a £100 you have no protection or help from the credit card provider if they decide not to help,you are on your own,if that being the case,i am getting rid of my credit cards,i will ether pay by debit card or by cash or check,credit cards have just lost there attraction if you are getting no help under £100,yet they charge interest if you are late with a payment,they take the interest,but show no interest when you need there help to get a refund as your card provider,buyers beware when using your credit card to pay for goods under a £100,maybe its time to get changes to the law with regards the use and protection when you use your credit card as a method of payment for goods and services on line or not,Jack Straw done away with the crime of fraud in English Law,but its still a crime in law in Scotland,when you take payment for goods and services knowingly that you don't provide the service or the goods,then you commit fraud,as the saying goes buyer beware at all times.

Our Response:
Your consumer rights allow you to return any item bought online or from a TV shopping channel or a mail order catalogue etc as long as you do so within 14 days. Why didn't you just follow the cancellations procedure set out on the Ideal World website.
OnlineShoppingRights - 15-Mar-17 @ 11:02 AM
I bought a Tower 4L Pressure Cooker from Ideal World Tv,it stated on there web-sightthat the Pressure cooker was suitable for use on induction hobs so I purchased on thatbasis,Pressure Cooker arrived,on the side of the box it said not suitable for use on induction hobs,done very simple test to check,used a fridge magnet to test the pot,did not stick so was not suitable,as the pot was made from cast Aluminium which is noneferrous,meaning not suitable on induction.Contacted Ideal World Tv told them that it was not suitable,explained the reason for my statement that the unit was not suitable,was told by a customer service agent in India that I was wrong and hung up the phone me,i contacted Ideal World Tv HQ in the UK,contacted the Director of customer services Mr David Pecc,he told me he would look into the matter,and get back to me ,he never did,a female member of staff contacted me by email,but has never once phoned,i also contacted Tower they confirmed to me that I was correct,because they asked me for the serial number on the box,they checked and came back to me to confirm that the unit could not be used on a induction hob,i contacted my credit card provider MBNA,they told me if the goods bought on my credit card are under £100 they are not compelled to do anything to recover my money on my credit card,so much for credit card protection,so I would advise anybody reading this,to go and check out what I am saying,if the goods that you pay for are under a £100 you have no protection or help from the credit card provider if they decide not to help,you are on your own,if that being the case,i am getting rid of my credit cards,i will ether pay by debit card or by cash or check,credit cards have just lost there attraction if you are getting no help under £100,yet they charge interest if you are late with a payment,they take the interest,but show no interest when you need there help to get a refund as your card provider,buyers beware when using your credit card to pay for goods under a £100,maybe its time to get changes to the law with regards the use and protection when you use your credit card as a method of payment for goods and services on line or not,Jack Straw done away with the crime of fraud in English Law,but its still a crime in law in Scotland,when you take payment for goods and services knowingly that you don't provide the service or the goods,then you commit fraud,as the saying goes buyer beware at all times.
Badger. - 13-Mar-17 @ 2:57 AM
i purchased a wig online that was stated as being 100% remmy human hair but when it came it was 1oo% synthetic.i asked for a return address as this was not what i had ordered.i was asked if i would keep the wig and they would give me a refund of first £10.then £20 then £30.i stated that i would not keep the wig even if offered any refund because the wig looked cheap and was one that i would never wear under any circumstanses.i kept asking for the return address and never got it so i contacted paypal,who after investigating agreed that i had a right to a full refund of the £73 that i had paid for the wig.so the return address was given to me,which was in china,but why was i to send it to china when the wig was sent from middlesex uk?the cost of sending it to china was £68.my point now is that if the seller had sent the wig that i ordered i would be keeping it so why should i have to pay return cost when they have not sent goods as described?
bonny - 2-Mar-16 @ 3:55 PM
I reserved on line with argos a product, i called in to the store and they said that it had been cancelled by someone unknown, so the member of staff re ordered it and said it would be again ready for collection within 4 days, so the time passed I went in again to the store, to collect, yet again the staff said that it had been cancelled, dont know why, after goig out of my way to get to the store I said just cancel the whole order completely, I then complained to Argos customer service who said Upon investigation I can confirm, the automated reservation service allowed the item to be reserved when no stock was available at the warehouse and because of an error on the warehouse system this item still showed as being available.this is no answer or solution to the problem. who can I complain to to ensure that this does not happen to other people. I think that this is disgusting and no customer service at all
bob - 25-Jun-15 @ 7:34 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the OnlineShoppingRights website. Please read our Disclaimer.