OFT cracks down on leading online retailers

In a crackdown on leading online retailers the Office of Fair Trading has found that more than a third could be breaking UK consumer laws.A check of 156 popular websites suggested that as many as 62 may not be fully complying with consumer protection law.

The Office of Fair Trade (OFT) found unreasonable restrictions on refunds and compulsory charges being added without prior warning at the online checkout.

In this year’s crack down-the biggest so far, the regulator checked the sites of the 100 most used online retailers in the UK, as well as the most popular clothing sites.

Among the most common problems found by the OFT were retailers wrongly telling their customers that returned goods must be in their original packaging or in their original condition. The OFT explained that this could be in breach of the buyer’s right to inspect or assess a product.

Your online shopping rights:

  •     Goods must be delivered within 30 days, unless agreed otherwise
  •     You can cancel an order within seven working days in most cases (longer for financial products) and get a full refund
  •     The refund should include any delivery charges, although you may have to pay for returns
  •     You don’t have to return the goods in their original packaging
  •     You are responsible for the safe return of items
  •     The retailer would have to pay for return postage if the items are going back because they are faulty or not as ordered

Of the 60% of sites that notified buyers there would be compulsory charges, such as delivery, in addition to the up-front price, 24% of those then added extra, unexpected, charges as well. These included card charges, and booking and luggage fees.

It has now written to all of those who may be misleading consumers.

Those who do not change their sites to comply with the law could be taken to court and face fines, the OFT said, although in past cases, most have altered their sites without it going this far.

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