I always like to shop locally whenever possible but many people indulge in a bit of online retail therapy nowadays and if you’re one of them here are few things to think about.
Legally, if you buy online you are covered by the same consumer protection laws regarding faulty goods as if you had bought from a real shop on the High Street.
So as highlighted in my column last week that means goods have to be “as described” “of reasonable quality” and “fit for purpose”.
Your contract is with the online retailer, so if there is a problem with the goods you should go back to the retailer rather than the manufacturer or delivery company. So don’t be fobbed off if the online retailer tries to pass the buck.
What is different about buying online rather than the High Street is that you have a seven day cooling off period if you don’t like what you’ve ordered or if you simply change your mind.
In practice this means you have seven working days from the day after the goods are delivered to you to tell the online retailer that you wish to cancel the order.
You should cancel by letter or email and then send the goods back as soon as possible (although the goods do not need to be physically returned within the seven day deadline).
If you are buying from an online auction site the same consumer protection laws will only apply if you buy from a business (ie not an individual) and you use the ‘buy it now’ or ‘fixed price’ option.
Just like buying on the High Street paying by credit or debit card can offer you additional consumer protection.
Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if the goods you are buying are more than £100 and less than £30,000 the credit card company take on joint and several liability with the retailer, which is handy of the retailer goes out of business.
With debit cards what ever the amount you have paid ask for “chargeback” which offers you additional legal protection although is not a legal right.
Lastly, if you are shopping online use some common sense and if buying from an unfamiliar retailer do some research beforehand. Make sure there is a contact number that works and also that there is a physical address in the UK.