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With a massive increase in the amount that we buy online we need to be more aware now than ever of our Consumer Rights. These are rights that we have as a customer or consumer (someone who buys something or pays for a service) – there are laws to protect you. They apply when you are shopping in the high street and ‘at a distance’ i.e. over the phone, by post and online.

Some examples of consumer rights are:

  • You can get your money back or a repair or replacement if a product is faulty or does not do what it is supposed to, however you are not entitled to anything if you just change your mind, unless you are purchasing online, by phone, from eBay, etc.
  • You are entitled to a full refund if you order goods online, by phone, from eBay, etc, and do not receive them within 30 days, or by another agreed date
  • You may be eligible for a refund or compensation if you have signed a contract with someone to carry out work for you and the work is not up to standard

Online shopping

Online shopping is very convenient – not having to leave the house, shopping at any time of the day and having a wide range of goods to choose from can make this type of shopping fun.

However there are a number of dangers in shopping online that can mean you end up losing your money or have your card used fraudulently unless you take care and follow a few precautions:

  • Type the web address carefully – check out sites before buying to be absolutely sure. There have been cases where duplicate sites have been set up that look exactly the same as the real site to steal your credit or debit card details
  • Use sites that you know your friends or family have used so you know they can be trusted
  • Don’t buy from sites that don’t display a phone number and full postal address. Most will also have a security certificate to reassure you that they can be trusted
  • Make sure you’re aware of all the costs such as postage and packing and VAT – in some cases these are only added on at the end when you are about to make a payment
  • Most trusted websites these days have a green padlock that appears in the top left corner of the address bar when you are asked to provide payment details – this is to reassure you that the site is a secure one
  • A good way of ensuring that your bank details are secure is to set up a Paypal account – this is a secure and trusted website that handles payments for you for any online shopping if you set-up an account with them. The majority of websites accept Paypal which means you never have to provide them with your bank account details directly
  • If you use eBay or other websites for your shopping, check the returns policy in case you change your mind or the goods are faulty. Also make sure you check the terms for payment, some sellers expect payment immediately whilst others accept payment up to five days after you have agreed to buy the item
  • Goods from abroad may take longer to arrive so try to set a date for delivery which must be within 30 days. Also if you buy from abroad your contract is with the person overseas and you may have difficulty getting your money back if there is a problem
  • Print out or take a screen capture of the order and terms and conditions that appear on the web site in case there are problems
  • You should receive email confirmation of your order within 24 hours

It’s helpful to know what your rights are as a consumer before you part with your money and what to do if goods are faulty.

  • Always keep your receipts when you buy goods as these are proof that you bought the item from a specific shop or trader
  • Ask for a receipt if one is not offered
  • If you buy anything online, make sure you keep details of the order or proof of purchase. Also check their policy on returning goods. If you buy something second-hand from someone, sometimes they state clearly that they don’t accept returns
  • If you buy anything from a newspaper or magazine keep the advertisement and remember it is possible that companies can go bust before you receive your goods
  • If you buy an item that then proves to be faulty then stop using the item and either send or take it back to where you bought it. You should be entitled to a full refund
  • If the trader repairs the item and it turns out to be faulty again you have the right to have your money back
  • If you buy a sale item that states that it is faulty then you won’t be able to get your money back if you report the fault later
  • A guarantee protects you if something goes wrong with a new item and usually details how to make a claim
  • You may be offered an extended warranty (guarantee) but you will have to pay for this, so think about whether it is worth the money

Citizen’s Advice is able to offer free, impartial advice to consumers. You can also report any issues you are having with individual sellers or companies through Trading Standards.