Online shopping: your right to return virtually everything

With unemployment still high, it's a wonder more people don't take advantage of the excellent opportunities in online fraud. Why not start a website, advertise fictitious goods and watch the pounds roll in without getting off the sofa; or send out serious "phishing" emails asking for bank details? Ideally, swindlers should be domiciled abroad, where the chance of being caught by the virtual arm of the law is as remote as the physical connection between buyer and seller.

Indeed, with so much going for e-crime, one can only marvel at the proliferation of honest websites touting the likes of Roman coins, Elvis Presley LPs and 3D TVs. The majority of "e-retail" is charmingly stress-free and good value. Such is its surging appeal that half of all retail sales will be online by 2020, according to the Interactive Media in Retail Group. The only problem is that most customers are sketchy about their rights when shopping online or how to seek redress if there is a problem. Here are some pointers:

1. Avoid frauds

There is no surefire way of dodging web swindles, but, if possible, stick to reputable e-tailers such as amazon.co.uk, play.com or asos.com, or the virtual manifestations of high-street shops, such as johnlewis.com or argos.co.uk. Beware of lookalike sites. If in doubt, type the name into Google – the first link that comes up should be genuine. Check where a site is based. Don't assume that a .uk address guarantees a British company. It does not. Beware of sites listing a PO box as a contact. Be especially careful when buying: 1. Tickets for occasional events such as Reading Festival or the 2010 World Cup. Fake sites pop up each year advertising tickets for seasonal events, leaving a trail of disaffected punters. 2. Fashionable brands. British police shut 1,200 websites selling counterfeit or non-existent designer wear in December. Ugg Boots are a common con. The correct address is uggaustralia.com. One more tip: real banks NEVER email customers asking for sort codes or account/pin numbers.

2. Pay the right way

Look for the padlock symbol denoting secure payment. If you use a credit card for transactions over £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 requires the card provider to become involved if something goes wrong. This is particularly advisable if you're buying something particularly expensive or have never used the trader before. If worried about identity theft, use prepayment plastic such as Visa pre-paid.

3. Check the quality

Under the Sales of Goods Act, consumers have the same rights when buying from British websites as they do on the high street. Products must be "as described" and fit for purpose, meaning you can return a pair of shoes with shoddy seams or a TV that breaks after a few months. Generally, for goods bought from European sites, the consumer law of the trader's country applies (See resolving disputes, below).

4. Return shoddy goods

British customers have the right to return the vast majority of goods within seven days of delivery. They can be returned for any reason; if they are faulty or you don't like the colour or simply because you have CHANGED YOUR MIND. This cooling-off period is seven days for customers dealing with British websites and between seven and 14 days for the rest of Europe, depending on the state. The rights come from the EU Distance Selling Directive, which states that after customers cancel the order in writing, they should receive a 100 per cent reimbursement within 30 days. The law applies only to remote transactions where there is no face-to-face contact and excludes: finance, travel, regular deliveries of food and drink, unsealed computer software and newspapers and periodicals.

5. Resolve disputes

Complain to the trader first. If no joy, avail yourself of free help. For UK firms, contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. For EU sites, call the UK European Consumer Centre on 08456 04 05 03.

Heroes & Villians

Hero: Essex fish & chip shops

Fraud swallows up to one-tenth of spending on food and drink, and there are a range of cons, such as selling bogus vintage wine or "organic" meat. One dodge involves fish and chip shops substituting Vietnamese catfish for cod: both have flaky white flesh, but while cod costs £12 a kilo, pangasius is £5. So what happened when trading standards officers analysed "cod" at 15 chippies in Essex? Every single fish supper was genuine.

Villain: Scottish Power

Ironic congratulations to the Spanish-owned energy giant which lumbered into life yesterday, cutting gas by 8 per cent from 31 March. The Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband, demanded a winter price cut from the Big Six on 18 November. British Gas started last month, followed by the only other British-owned firm, Scottish & Southern. The vernal equinox is on 20 March, the last possible interpretation of winter. Scottish Power is still the costliest supplier.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Accounts Payable

    £12 - £15 per hour: Cameron Kennedy Recruitment: Excellent opportunity to join...

    Technical BA - Banking - Bristol - £400pd

    £400 per hour: Orgtel: Technical Business Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £400pd...

    Account Management Strategy Manager

    £38000 - £42000 per annum + competitive: Real Staffing: Required skills:Previo...

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice