Follow this topicFollow this topic Knowledge » Consumer rights

OFT orders online shops to change their websites

ReenaSewraz
by Lovemoney Staff ReenaSewraz on 12 October 2012  |  Comments 10 comments

62 online shops could be breaking consumer laws according to the Office of Fair Trading.

OFT orders online shops to change their websites

An OFT survey of 156 popular online retailers ahead of Christmas has found that as many as one third may not be complying with consumer protection laws.

The Office of Fair Trading has instructed 62 online shops to make changes to their websites before Christmas.

What the OFT found

The sweep was conducted on 156 of the most regularly used websites that sell goods and/or services.

The most common problem found by the OFT was retailers imposing unreasonable restrictions on a shopper’s right to a refund. 33% of online shops stated in one way or another that a product must be returned in the original packaging or in the original condition.

But according to the OFT this condition prevents the customer from reasonably inspecting a purchase.

Another big concern was that just under two thirds of the websites failed to provide sufficient contact details for customers. 60% of retailers in the sweep only provided a web contact form rather than an e-mail contact address, which is in breach of e-commerce rules.

Lastly, while 60% of the sites informed buyers there would be more charges like delivery to come, 24% of these retailers added additional unexpected charges like card fees at checkout without prior warning.

In general, the survey of online retailers found that the majority of sites were compliant with Distance Selling Regulations and consumer laws but there was definitely room for improvement.

Written warning

The OFT has now written to all those retailers that could be in breach of rules and regulations that govern shopping online.

Those who do not heed the warning and make the appropriate changes to their sites could be taken to court by the OFT or Local Trading Standards Services.

Getting compliant

Online businesses can check they are fully compliant with Distance Selling Regulations and other consumer protection laws with the Distance Selling Hub.

It provides detailed information about the rules and regulations that apply to sales made when a customer is not present i.e. over the internet, telephone, interactive TV, text and mail order.

What you can do

Anyone concerned that an online company is not sticking to rules can report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 040506. 

Here you can get free, confidential and impartial advice, but the service can also report a business to the appropriate trading standards service.

But if you are unsure about your rights when you shop online take a look at this article: Know your online rights.

More on consumer rights:

Your rights if you change your mind

OFT starts investigation into petrol prices

How to get a ticket refund from cancelled events

OFT refers motor insurance industry to Competition Commission

Enjoyed this? Show it some love

Twitter
General

Comments (10)

  • Meduza78
    Love rating 18
    Meduza78 said

    08454 040506 - Here you can get free, confidential and impartial advice....

    since I will probably be charged additional fee for calling a number like this, i do not consider it a free advice.

    Report on 13 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    @Meduza78

    0845 numbers are only one band up from 0800 free ones and are the local rate ones at 'no more than 4p a minute from BT land lines'. They are free on plenty of calling plans. Check your facts before posting.

    Report on 13 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • fender
    Love rating 27
    fender said

    If people don't like what they see, then why order it? Why should retailers that have sent good out have to chuck out stuff returned? Because the reality is that is what will happen, the customer will ordering stuff knowing they can un pack it, use it then within 14 days or what ever chuck it all back in a box demand it is collected and then expect a full refund.

    Yet another law dreamed up by yet another government pen pusher who knows nothing of the real world.

    Bottom line an item should only be returned for a refund if, its faulty or the retailer has mis-lead with the description the item in question. Otherwise it the costs involved should always for starters be on the customer.

    Report on 13 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Meduza78
    Love rating 18
    Meduza78 said

    electricblue, from my t-mobile bill, a year ago, i can see this:

    0845 3000000 0845 Number 1 4:16 0.441

    the first two groups of number are the phone number, the second group is a sort of specification followed by the word "Number", the "1" indicates the number of calls, "4:16" is the duration of the call and the last group of number is the price.

    this does not look as zero to me. small fee but still a fee, i.e. not free.

    Report on 13 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Diverhil
    Love rating 1
    Diverhil said

    Responding to a previous post -The cooling off period is not for one to try out an article, just a period in which you can change your mind. The goods should be returned unworn or unused; you certainly should be able to tell whether you want something from seeing and handling it or trying it on in the case of a clothing article, just like you do in a shop where it would be up to the shop to give you a refund if you just changed your mind afterwards-they are not obliged to give you a refund. There are one of two internet/tv shopping channels that let you try things out for a 30 day period before buying but that is something completely different. Other than that you do not have the right to use them and expect them to be collected by the seller or even returned at your own cost, though some will collect them or give you a free return if you take them to a collection point.

    Things often do look different on line to when you actually have them in your hands and that you can 'change your mind' is right. More often than not, the buyer has to pay for the p&p charges in both direction.

    I do most of my shopping (other than groceries) online and very rarely send things back because I have 'changed my mind' but because they are either not quite what I wanted or don't fit etc.

    Report on 13 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • biophile
    Love rating 4
    biophile said

    Shame this article doesn't name the non-compliant e-stores, not specifically to shame them, but so that we can knoe whether to avoid them or to use them aware of their potential non-compliance and to see if they have complied of the law.

    "Those who do not heed the warning and make the appropriate changes to their sites could be taken to court by the OFT or Local Trading Standards Services." Surely the OFT not only "could be taken to court..." but SHOULD be taken to court - after all they are breaking the law. Any individual found/caught breaking the law has legal action taken against them. Why should companies be let-off such action?

    I agree with 'fender' that some people may take advantage of returns policies to briefly use goods and then unreasonably return for a refund. However, I find 'fender' somewaht naive in suggesting that "If people don't like what they see, then why order it?." People see something they think they would like and order it - then find it doesn't meet expectations (whether the customer's personal expectation and/or that presented by the e-retailer's description). Unlike in a real shop customers can not examine the product until it has been delivered. Virtual shopping is by its nature remote and consumers do need appropriate levels of protection against e-commerce deception. People abuse the return policies of real shops - all abuse is immoral and often illegal.

    Report on 13 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • culluding-fool
    Love rating 60
    culluding-fool said

    @biophile, are you implying that online shops aren't 'real shops'?

    Report on 13 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • shortchanged
    Love rating 18
    shortchanged said

    I am glad of this improvement - I have always found it irksome that cds for example are supposed to only be returnable if unopened - but if I cannot hear it I cannot decide if I like it or not! I have bought some on the strength of samples online, only to find that only the bit I heard was worth having and I hated the rest, and am then stuck with it because I took the cellophane wrapper off. I agree that some can abuse this, but most of us don't. That said, most companies are very good about returns and refunds. The only really awful trouble I had was with a TV that turned out to be faulty but the company said I had to pay return postage which would have cost me more than the cost of the tv - it is stuck in the shed somewhere useless.

    Report on 14 October 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Talent
    Love rating 79
    Talent said

    I see electricblue has stuck his nose in AGAIN. 0845 numbers are not free on all plans. 0845 numbers are not necessary. Where there is an 0845 number there is ALWAYS a land line number it tags to. So why not give out the landline number. We know why.... because they make money out of your call. Simples. Always go to 'Saynoto 0870' to try and find an alternative, not always successful but worth a try.

    Report on 05 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • culluding-fool
    Love rating 60
    culluding-fool said

    In some cases 0845 numbers cost the same as some 0844 numbers. I use my mobile phone to make calls when I can because landline calls are free. I didn't see the point paying extra for free calls on the landline as well so I only use that for free numbers and incoming calls.

    Does this article mean that software can be returned after being tried out?

    Report on 06 December 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

Post a comment

Sign in or register to post a reply.

Our top deals

Credit card
company
Balance transfers rate and period Representative
APR
Apply
now

Barclaycard 31Mth Platinum Visa

0% for 31 months (2.99% fee) Representative 18.9% APR (variable) Apply
Representative example: Assumed borrowing of £1,200 for 1 year, at a Purchase Rate of 18.9% (variable), representative 18.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. A Balance Transfer fee of 3.5% will be applied, then reduced to 2.99% by a refund (terms and conditions apply). Plus an additional £20 fee refund on balance transfers over £2000.

Barclaycard 30Mth Platinum Visa

0% for 30 months (2.89% fee) Representative 18.9% APR (variable) Apply
Representative example: Assumed borrowing of £1,200 for 1 year, at a Purchase Rate of 18.9% (variable), representative 18.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. A Balance Transfer fee of 3.5% will be applied, then reduced to 2.89% by a refund (terms and conditions apply). Plus an additional £20 fee refund on balance transfers over £2000.

MBNA 30Mth Platinum Credit Card Visa

0% for 30 months (2.89% fee) Representative 18.9% APR (variable) Apply
Representative example: Assumed borrowing of £1,200 for 1 year, at a Purchase Rate of 18.9% (variable), representative 18.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status.
W3C  Thank you for using One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest