Whoever said 'knowledge is power' certainly had the right idea. Whether a novice Internet shopper venturing into previously unknown territory, or a seasoned shopping pro, it's always worth your while having even just a fundamental understanding about your online consumer rights.
Internet shopping is not exactly a minefield, and in a worst-case scenario it's highly unlikely that consumers will find themselves having to constantly safeguard against a barrage of criminal activity. But on a rare occasion, a consumer may find themselves in a dispute with a seller of online products. Issues that may arise when shopping online include challenging the cost of a return or unfair charges, or complaints about the quality of product received. In instances such as these, it's always worth having knowledge of your legal standpoint and knowing when there has actually been an infringement on your consumer rights.
Sale of Goods Act 1979
The Sale of Goods Act covers all products purchased, whether by mail order, online or on the high street. The basis of the act outlines the fact that traders are legally obliged to conform to a contract. This contract states that sellers must sell goods that are 'fit for purpose', 'as described' and 'of satisfactory quality'. So if you've bought something from the Internet in the UK, and you believe that it doesn't fit the description, or isn't up to scratch, then as a consumer you're within your rights to claim either a repair, request a replacement item, or even in some cases request compensation.
There are other relevant and associated regulations that have been created in the years since the Sale of Goods Act was first introduced. These include the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, Sale of and Goods Act 1994, and its most recent relation, the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002. The basis of these regulations remains the same, but there are a few points that prove advantageous to consumers.
You should also never allow a seller to forgo all responsibility with a faulty item. The Sale of Goods Act states that it's the seller and not the manufacturer who is liable for goods that don't conform to the aforementioned contract. If the goods don't conform to the contract at the time of sale, then the purchaser is also within their rights to request their money back within a reasonable time. However, there is no set legal parameter for what is considered reasonable time. You should also be aware that if you were told of the faults before you purchased the item, then you are not able to claim a refund.
As a purchaser are also not entitled to a refund if you've simply changed your mind about what you've bought. If you're lucky some shops will, however, refund you as a goodwill gesture in this sort of circumstance.
Distance Selling Regulations 2000 (now replaced by the Consumer Contract Regulations)
Distance Selling refers to sales made via mail order, over the telephone, on the Internet or via a digital television- basically where there isn't any face-to-face contact between the seller and the buyer. With the rise of more distance selling, especially online, the Consumer Contract Regulations are now perhaps more relevant to consumers than ever before. The regulations afford consumers with protection to addition to the rights as outlined in the Sale of Goods Act.
The regulations state that the consumer must be given clear information about the goods or services on sale before they buy. Unless they have agreed otherwise, the goods should be delivered within 30 days.
Consumers are also allowed a 7-day cooling off period, during which they can change their mind and withdraw from the 'contract' without giving reason. For services, the 7 working day cooling off period starts after the day the order was originally made. If the services already began within these initial 7 days anyway, then the right to cancel ends when the service begins. In the event of the consumer deciding to cancel, the notification should be made to the supplier, and ideally be done in writing (either via email or letter) and sent to the supplier. The supplier should then refund the consumer within 30 days.
The Distance Selling Regulations are not applicable to the buying of land, although they do apply to land rentals. They also don't cover vending machines or goods and services purchased at an auction where an auctioneer is present. The regulations also aren't applicable to business to business sales. Financial services are covered by an alternative legislation known as Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations.
Since 2002, consumers have also been protected by another piece of legislation known as the E-Commerce Regulations. They basically bring the EC Directive on e-commerce into the realms of UK law. Amongst other things, these regulations ensure that contracts are properly concluded electronically, and that terms and conditions are available in a format that can be printed out and kept by the buyer.
The regulations also make sure that all relevant information purporting to the company, such as bona fide contact details, VAT registration number, and any professional accreditations are made available to the consumer. The consumer should also be provided with clear and accurate information about the goods or services on offer, and whether the price stated includes VAT and the cost of delivery.
I renewed my driving licence online and did not realise that the website I used was not the proper government website and that it was actually a company based in Estonia but masquerading as the official government website for the renewal of driving licences. In carrying out the renewal I provided them with all my personal details which is of huge concern to me. I also paid £94 instead of the standard charge of £14. I have requested a full refund but they have only offered to refund £16. They have a London address on their website but I don’t know where to go from here. Your advice will be very appreciated. Many thanks
PH - 5-Jul-21 @ 9:51 AM
I recently purchased some shelving units off an advert on Facebook. I received a totally different product one of which was broken. The company is based in China. I emailed asking for a refund they said I could only get a full refund if I sent the product back at a cost of approx £17 or I could keep and get a 20% refund of my original outlay. I then request a shipping label from them to which they said they couldn’t do and offered me a 25% refund. I’ve told them this is still not an acceptable solution what are my rights?
Lyn - 15-Sep-20 @ 7:09 AM
Bought £590 worth of kettlebells from a company called Net World Sports based in Wrexham, on August 15th. It seems they have switched off their phone lines and are not responding to emails even though they automated response say they will. I should have done this first however I have just checked the review of their service and its appalling. The vast majority of customers are calling them scam artists and it seems they won't respond to any form of contact, except being threatened by Paypal. Any advice?
Mike - 11-Sep-20 @ 12:26 PM
I ordered a hand held massager gun from a website called bestatued. I received a package with the same order number they gave me but there was a pair of sunglasses and socks in it. I have emailed the company numerous times but have received no reply. What can I do ?
James - 13-Jan-20 @ 3:52 PM
Purchased a glass shower cubicle for a bathroom, only recently managed to assemble it and there is a 2 cm gap between the door and the fixed glass section. Looks terrible.Rechecked the website photos and no gap is shown. Contacted the site which is a UK based company and they declaredand I quote "The images on our website are for illustrated purposes only the item/items you receive may well have small differences to the picture displayed on the website."Would anyone consider a 2 cm gap in reality compared to no gap in the picture to be a minor difference
John - 14-Sep-18 @ 7:10 PM
I bought an exercise bike via Tesco direct. I know usually the warranty is about two years, however, a year ago I did some research into it and went to the Citizens Advice Bureau to get some advice about it as another item I had bought had gone wrong after more than two years, and theytold me about the Sales of Goods Act 1979, which gives consumers some rights to refunds or free repairs for up to six years after the purchase of the item, if the product could have been expected to last six years or more and it has been used properly. I wouldn’t expect a cheap item from a not very reputable brand to last 6 years; however, I would expect an exercise bike from a reputable brand such as V-Fit for which I paid £92 , and which has been used properly, to last more than six years.
I've explained this to Tesco, however they're refusing to exchange or refund me, saying the one year warranty has expired and this is fully compliant with all of the laws and acts in place when it comes to purchasing goods over the internet. Are they right? I bought it twenty months ago.
Mse - 6-Sep-17 @ 2:40 PM
my mother who is 89 bought and paid for a "boot camp" weekend in the UK not fully realising what it was. The booking was fully online. We wrote within 12 hours saying that it was a mistake and would like to cancel. The company claimed it was not cancelable as it was a special offer and this was mentioned in their T&C. She accepted that comment but has been quite distraught since.
The weekend is for the end of October.
Do I understand that under distance selling regulations they should refund the booking monies?
thanks for your advice
kk - 13-Sep-16 @ 12:33 PM
I would like to purchase a dress online, but the company states that sale items can not be refunded.Is this legal under the distance selling regulations?I would like to be sure of the position before placing an order, just in case the dress doesn't fit or suit me!Thank you!
consumer - 19-May-16 @ 7:42 AM
Leyther - Your Question:
I bought a samsung galaxy s7 from a company called simply electronics on the internet. The company portrays being UK based and delivery would be 8_10 working days. Seven weeks and several emails I am still waiting. I have cancelled the order , they said they will process the refund in due course. How long do I have to give them to give me the refund please? I believe that they are Hong Kong based.
It's difficult when shopping from companies abroad as the UK/EU legislation does not apply. If you paid for the goods on credit or with a debit card, you could try to make a claim against the credit or debit company instead of the trader. The goods must usually have cost more than £100 but you don't need to have put the full purchase amount on the card.
OnlineShoppingRights - 6-May-16 @ 11:04 AM
I bought a samsung galaxy s7 from a company called simply electronics on the internet. The company portrays being UK based anddelivery would be 8_10 working days. Seven weeks andseveral emails I am still waiting. I have cancelled the order , they said they will process the refund in due course. How long do I have to give them to give me the refund please? I believe that they are Hong Kong based.
Leyther - 4-May-16 @ 3:03 PM
is it legal for amazon to charge me £2.99 to return something I purchased. I can send it via royal mail for £1.10 but if I want to register the return with amazon I have to choose from 3 options all of which charge me £2.99 including me walking to the amazon depot and dropping it off! I'm sure this is illegal.
frustratedwithamazon - 29-Apr-16 @ 2:18 PM
I purchased several bathroom items from Victoria plumbing at the end of December 2015 during their 'sale'. As everything was delivered on pallets and was hard to unpack and then store safely, not everything was fully checked.
On the plumber installing the items at the start of April 2016, it was identified that 2 items were significantly damaged / faulty.
Victoria Plumbing are refusing to exchange or refund the items saying that I am outside their 30 day returns period which is fair enough I suppose but surely I have more rights as the goods are simply not fit for purpose?
Grant - 11-Apr-16 @ 8:18 PM
Dancer ware World have a sale on their website but state sale items cannot be returned...is this correct?
Dancer - 24-Mar-16 @ 12:40 PM
philippa - Your Question:
I bought a prom dress from a company dylan queen. Co.uk. The item was posted from Singapore! It has arrived and nothing like the picture. Different materials and very cheaply made. I've asked for a full refund the day it arrived. They replied saying it looks like the picture which it doesn't and I pointed out the differences. Do I have a leg to stand on ? I just want a refund asap.I offered to post it back
This company is the subject of many complaints. Unfortunately, they appear as though they are a UK company but there is no company number etc. Try your credit card company first of all and advise them that you want to use the charge back procedure (for purchases abroad). WHICH has more information on this.
OnlineShoppingRights - 26-Feb-16 @ 2:46 PM
I bought a prom dress from a companydylan queen. Co.uk.
The item was posted from Singapore!
It has arrived and nothing like the picture. Different materials and very cheaply made.
I've asked for a full refund the day it arrived.They replied saying it looks like the picture which it doesn'tand I pointed out the differences. Do I have a leg to stand on ?I just want a refund asap..I offered to post it back
philippa - 25-Feb-16 @ 1:46 PM
fedupwithginternet- Your Question:
I bought an item from I love watches via groupon the item arrived later than was stated in the offer ie arrive within 7 working days it arrived 11 days later. I contacted groupon and they refuse to send a returns label to due to them NOT being the seller after several emails and a few phone calls they have sent me an email address for the supplier to request a returns label Is this correct procedure and who is responsible for postage costs and refunding my money as groupon say they are not responsible Regards Jean McCabe
Usually with Groupon, you are dealing directly with the retailer and should take this up with them. Was the 7 working day statement a promise or just an average?
OnlineShoppingRights - 3-Feb-16 @ 1:58 PM
I bought an item from I love watches via groupon the item arrived later than was stated in the offer ie arrive within 7 working days it arrived 11 days later .
I contacted groupon and they refuse to send a returns label to due to them NOT being the seller after several emails and a few phone calls they have sent me an email address for the supplier to request a returns label
Is this correct procedure and who is responsible for postage costs and refunding my money as groupon say they are not responsible
fedupwithginternet - 2-Feb-16 @ 6:11 PM
@cupcake. How does it not work? Is it not sucking up the dust/dirt? Is your rug an embossed design? Sometimes you have to use the attachment to do those satisfactorily. If it will not actually switch on etc, then vacuum cleaner is faulty and you should again send it back to the retailer.
OnlineShoppingRights - 18-Feb-15 @ 2:06 PM
Hi can you help me, I bought a hoover from littlewoods on 13 January.
I sent it back on the 14 January because it did not work in my rugs. Now they have sent it back 17 ,February saying that they had look at it and there notting wrong with it. It still dont work on my rugs, what can I do.
cupcake - 17-Feb-15 @ 12:33 PM
@dazz75. You are correct, the belt should have lasted more than three weeks and therefore the vacuum cleaner was not 'fit for purpose'. Littlewoods and Hoover may be correct in saying the warranty does not cover the belt, but the Sale of Goods Act imposes the duty on the retailer to repair, replace or refund you for anything that goes wrong within this short period of time. Send a letter or email saying the terms of the warranty are irrelevant as your rights under the Sale of Good Act 1976 apply.
OnlineShoppingRights - 10-Feb-15 @ 12:36 PM
I bought a Hoover upright vacuum cleaner from littlewoods about 3 weeks ago and the belt that drives the brush has snapped. it comes with a 2 year warranty but when I called Hoover them they said the belt is not covered and I would have to pay for a new belt. I then contacted Littlewoods as it was them who sold it, but they are agreeing with Hoover. I want to send it back as its clearly not fit for purpose but neither company are allowing it. can they do this?
dazz75 - 6-Feb-15 @ 11:17 AM
@tikki. Were you given an approximate date for delivery? If a time frame was agreed, the product must be delivered within that time frame under the Consumer Contracts Regulations. If no specific timescale was indicated, then the online store should have delivered it 'without undue delay' and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after payment was accepted. You should send a letter or email to the company asking for the item to be delivered within a timeframe that is acceptable to you (give a deadline). State that you will be demanding a full refund plus interest/compensation (if you've already paid in full) if the product is not received by then. If you do not receive it, or the store fails to contact you, take it up with your credit card company (assuming you paid by credit card) - under the consumer credit act. If you feel that the company has behaved badly, then also report it to Trading Standards.
OnlineShoppingRights - 5-Feb-15 @ 10:05 AM
I have been waiting 18 months for a camping product to arrive from a Scottish online store.It cost about £200 and it seems quite a few other people are in the same boat.The store is still in operation on the net.What to do?