Buying goods online14.12.2010
It is a popular misconception that buying online means that purchasers have fewer rights. In fact, you may very well have more rights buying online, or over the telephone or from a catalogue because of the Distance Selling Regulations, which gives a right to return certain goods within a week for a full refund (including any delivery costs), even where there is no fault with the goods. The purchaser will normally need to pay for the return of the goods.
However, before making any purchase, particularly when dealing online, it is important to be aware of certain potential issues, such as scams or counterfeit goods. If, for example, a purchaser was to see goods for sale online which seemed ‘too good to be true’ there is a good chance that it is a scam. Scams are there to con consumers out of money and every year millions of people fall victim. Scammers are very clever and people from all walks of life can fall foul of them. Other warning signs could be the requirement for the purchaser to give away bank account details or someone cold calling out of the blue.
Assuming there are no issues with scams or counterfeits and your goods turn up but they are not up to standard what can you do? The Distance Selling Regulations allow you to return most goods within a week even if there is no fault. However, and by whatever means you purchase the goods, if there is a problems it is imperative to deal with issues as soon as possible. You can often get a full refund within a period of 28 days, although commonly after that period you may only get an exchange, repair or part refund. If it is simply a case of for example, purchasing clothing in the wrong size, the retailer may allow you to have a refund, but there is no legal right of return because it is the wrong size.
If you are not able to resolve the matter quickly here are some useful pointers. Clearly explain, in writing, the reason for the complaint including any attempts that you have made to resolve this by a visit or otherwise, how you would like the matter resolved and by when. Also keep copies of receipts, any advertisements for the goods, and if ordered online, details of the order.
It is also important to keep any copies of any communication between you and the retailer. Consideration could be given to withholding payments that maybe due until the matter is resolved, but it is important that you check the small print of the contract, especially if you have taken out a credit agreement. If you have made a purchase with the assistance of a credit card they can, in certain circumstances, be held equally liable for any problems under the Consumer Credit Act.
If you are unable to resolve matters quickly then you could consider making a complaint to the appropriate trade associations or seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor.