The UK has never been one to shy away from online shopping, with the Office of National Statistics revealing that online shopping spending made up 18.6% of total retail sales in 2019. What’s more, almost £1 in every £5 is now spent online, with that figure only set to increase in the years to come.
With a bigger focus on online shopping, it’s important you understand your consumer rights should you run into any trouble during your shopping experience, including understanding the rules around returning items, as well as what to do should any goods arrive damaged.
What is the Consumer Rights Act?
Purchases made online are covered under the same act that applies to all regular purchases, the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
This new consumer rights law updated three major pieces of legislation to give consumers an easier way to claim money back or a replacement of goods should it not meet certain criteria. These criteria include:
Any item you purchase should arrive in a ‘satisfactory quality’. This can vary depending on where you have purchased the item but if you are buying brand new items, you can expect them to arrive undamaged and in full working condition.
Any item you purchase online should meet all aspects of the product description. This is especially helpful if you purchase something preowned, as any faults or damages should be outlined in the product description. This is also important if what you purchase doesn’t contain a feature that was previously specified, as it means the product is not accurately reflective of its product description.
Fit for purpose
Any item you purchase must fit the purpose it was intended for.
What are my consumer rights if an item is faulty?
An item that is faulty or damaged falls under the criteria of ‘satisfactory quality’, meaning a faulty item is naturally unable to meet these criteria. If an item is faulty, you are entitled to a full refund from the seller.
However, there is a strict time frame as for when you can apply for a refund, so don’t think you can simply wait for the product to develop a fault to then claim your money back. If your item arrives faulty or becomes faulty soon after purchase, you have 30 days from the date of purchase to claim for your refund.
Get in contact with the seller and state you are rejecting the item and asking to claim a refund. Make sure you’re able to provide proof of purchase, such as an invoice or bank statement, as the seller will be unlikely to process your request without it.
Find out how to make a complaint about a retailer.
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What are my consumer rights on returning goods?
If the item isn’t faulty but you want to return it anyway, then your consumer rights will apply differently here.
You are able to return an item you have purchased online for a refund, as long as you return it within 14 days from the date you received your item.
However, the item must be in a ‘sellable condition’. This can vary depending on the item, for example you won’t be able to return a CD or DVD if you have already removed the plastic wrapping, or if you have purchased something digital, such as Kindle Book, you won’t be able to get a refund if you’ve already downloaded the book.
What are my consumer rights if my item doesn’t arrive?
The Consumer Rights Act states that online retailers have up to 30 days to deliver good from the day of purchase. If your item doesn’t arrive within these 30 days, you’re well within your consumer rights to claim for a refund.
Some online retailers may also make such offers such as next day delivery. If you purchase an item from such a retailer and it doesn’t arrive in the next day, you may also have a right to a refund. If unsure, it’s always worth checking the retailer’s terms and conditions around guaranteed delivery dates.
How to prevent online shopping scams
While it’s made shopping so much easier for millions of people, it’s also given fraudsters plenty of new ways to try and steal your personal details to gain access to your card details.
According to a report by the National Crime Agency in 2016, the cost of cybercrime to the UK economy is billions of pounds per annum, a number that will only continue to grow.
A frightening statistic, but there are things you can do to prevent it happening to you.
Don’t reuse your password across lots of different websites. If a hacker gets hold of it from one account it’s likely they will try it out on others as well.
If you are buying something worth more than £100, it makes sense to use a credit card, which offers legal protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This law makes the credit card company jointly liable with the shop or provider if something is faulty, or not as described – or simply fails to arrive.
Make sure your computer has anti-virus software and has had all its updates installed, as these will help keep you safe online.
Finally, do a bit of research around the retailer’s website if it’s one you haven’t used before. Look up their Trust Pilot score, as this is a great way to find genuine reviews from people who have purchased goods from them in the past. If there’s a trend of negative reviews, you should take your business elsewhere.
Read our guide to what to do when a company you have bought from goes bust.
What are my consumer rights if I’m buying on eBay?
eBay is one of the most popular ways for people to purchase goods online, although a huge number of items put on sale are sold from individuals as opposed to retail businesses.
The good news is that the Consumer Rights Act applies to all sales of goods, including those conducted by individuals on eBay.
However, you should still be careful when using eBay - while the majority of sellers are genuine, there may still be those who are less so.
Perhaps the most common scam to look out for on eBay is if the seller asks to deal outside of the official eBay website, usually citing that it will prevent eBay from taking any commission, meaning they can offer the product at a slightly cheaper price.
Not only is this unethical, but doing so will almost guarantee you losing your consumer rights should you run into trouble and then proceed to make a claim with eBay.
Ready to do some online shopping? Be sure to read our top 5 tips for effective online shopping before getting started.