Online shopping is a phenomenon that looks set to stay. Sales are steadily increasing each year, and business opportunities within this sector seem neverending. Consumers are turning to the Internet as it offers more choice, flexibility and competitive pricing. However the Internet has one flaw – it can be much harder to spot an unscrupulous seller.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of transactions that take place on online shopping or auction sites each day, and only a fraction of these purchases prove problematic. However, consumers still need to be on their toes when it comes to recognising less than honest sellers, if the findings by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) are anything to go by.
Understanding Your Online Shopping Rights
As a consumer, you are protected by regulations and legislation when buying goods or services. These rights extend to online shopping under the Sale of Goods Act, the Distance Selling Regulations and more recently, the E-Commerce Regulations.
It is vitally important that you understand your rights with regard to online shopping, as some online retail outlets take advantage of consumer ignorance, particularly with regards to transparent pricing. The OFT estimates that online shoppers can pay upwards of £100 million in hidden charges, as a result of breaches of law and uninformed consumers.
The Sale of Goods Act basically stipulates that when you buy goods, when they reach you they should be of satisfactory quality, as described (this includes the product description and price) and fir for purpose (for example, if it says it’s waterproof, then it really is waterproof).
The Distance Selling Regulations ensure that when buying in circumstances where you are not able to physically be present when making the purchase. Distance Selling applies to mail order catalogues, digital television, SMS and phone purchases, in addition to Internet Shopping. The basic premise is that as a consumer, you have access to ‘prior information’ - this should include information such as business name and address, full price of goods and services on offer, as well as your rights pertaining to returns, refunds and cancellation policies.
The E-Commerce Regulations have been created to help sellers and consumers complete electronic contracts (the purchasing and delivery of goods or services). The regulations stipulate that business details should be readily available to the consumer, should there be any dispute with the quality of goods or services received. The regulations also ensure that all pricing strategies and advertising used by the seller are lawful – that is, that they are clear, not misleading and include all otherwise hidden fees such as VAT and delivery/shipping costs.
Transparency in Pricing
However, despite these consumer rights, it has recently come to light that a large proportion of online shopping sites reviewed by the OFT were failing to reach the standards as set in the aforementioned legislation and regulation. Just over 30 per cent of these sites duped the consumer by not being completely transparent with their pricing.
The main problem was linked to the refund policies set out by these online shopping sites. The Distance Selling Regulations require sellers to incur the cost of a full refund, yet some retail sites were not complying with this fundamental aspect of this piece of European legislation. Under half of the online retail outlets that were surveyed were failing to clearly outline additional charges before reaching the checkout stage of a purchase. These ‘hidden charges’ often include the cost of delivery, which can significantly increase the price of a purchase.
However, despite this finding, the OFT still found that the majority of online shops were complying with the regulations and legislation designed to protect consumers. So as a consumer buying online, you should still have confidence that there are honest and law-abiding retailers out there.
However, if you have a good understanding of your consumer rights, and know what to look out for, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether you’re buying from a reputable company who respects your rights.
I bought a laptop online which was a very good price from a reputable company.Now 10 days on they are saying that this model is no longer available at the price I paid. It is still being advertised on their website but now at a higher price.
Do they have to supply this laptop at the price originally advertised
Harry - 9-Sep-20 @ 10:44 AM
Mike - Your Question:
I have just bought a jacket from Debenhams online at £50. (Because I paid more than £40.00 there were no delivery charges.)I am delighted with the jacket except for the fact that it had a double price tag attached, both giving its price as £45.00.Are Debenhams at fault here?
No, it may have been priced at £45 at some point previously. They offered it at £50 and you agreed to purchase at that price.If you email them and query it, you might be lucky enough to get £5 back as a good will gesture.
OnlineShoppingRights - 12-Apr-17 @ 12:04 PM
I have just bought a jacket from Debenhams online at £50.(Because I paid more than £40.00 there were no delivery charges.)
I am delighted with the jacket except for the fact that it had a double price tag attached, both giving its price as £45.00.
Are Debenhams at fault here?
Mike - 10-Apr-17 @ 4:56 PM
Jules - Your Question:
Can you help me please, I purchase a leather sofa from DFS 4 weeks ago in their sale which was advertised as 'up to half price off'. I paid £798 for the sofa and have not yet even taken delivery. When I went onto their site today to pay the balance payment, they are now advertising the same sofa, again in the 'up to half price' sale at £499.00, stating that the after sale price is £639. I am totally gutted and feel that I have been mislead by them as I was lead to believe that the standard cost of this sofa was around £1,596. Do I have any rights to demand some sort of refund on this or any claim whatsoever please. This seems very unfair and particularly misleading - to the point of how can this even be legal practise? Thank you for any advice you can give.
There are no laws about making further reductions from an item in a sale and you don't have any rights to demand a further reduction on the item you have purchased if the price subsequently drops. To follow the rules, the sofa must have been on sale at the higher price (i.e which it claims was the original price) for
28 consecutive days in that store immediately before the sale unless a sign explains otherwise. Also, the sofa should not be on offer at the sale price for longer than it was being sold at the higher price (again there are some exclusions such as a display sign explaining that the is doesn't follow the rules and why).
OnlineShoppingRights - 3-Apr-17 @ 11:45 AM
Can you help me please, I purchase a leather sofa from DFS 4 weeks ago in their sale which was advertised as 'up to half price off'.I paid £798 for the sofa and have not yet even taken delivery.When I went onto their site today to pay the balance payment, they are now advertising the same sofa, again in the 'up to half price' sale at £499.00, stating that the after sale price is £639.I am totally gutted and feel that I have been mislead by them as I waslead to believe that the standard cost of this sofa was around £1,596.Do I have any rights to demand some sort of refund on this or any claim whatsoever please.This seems very unfair and particularly misleading - to the point of how can this even be legal practise?Thank you for any advice you can give.
Jules - 31-Mar-17 @ 11:47 AM
@Dibbs. Check the terms and conditions of your contract to see if the company is allowed to increase the price of your holiday (this is usually for items such as tax, fuel prices etc - not errors).If a holiday company has priced a holiday/hotel incorrectly, they don't have to sell it to you at that price, but they must not advertise a price which is deliberately wrong or misleading. If you've been misled, you can take action under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
OnlineShoppingRights - 9-Jan-15 @ 10:49 AM
Bought a holiday online and paid. It appears that the wrong cost was advertised. It should have been more expensive. Where do I stand legally if I am asked to pay more than I have already paid? The agents are reputable and affiliated.