Savvy Money: Know your rights when you go shopping online
The law is on your side if a retailer fails to deliver – even if you never went into a store
Saturday 25 May 2013
There's no doubt that more of us are choosing to shop online – on our computers, tablets or smartphones. Figures from the internet-retailing industry trade body, the IMRG, show that a staggering 1.3 billion online shopping parcels were sent last year. That's not to say that there were 1.3 billion orders as this includes returned items, but it gives you an idea of the scale of the market.
Shopping from home
Despite the rise in shopping from home, many people aren't aware of their rights. But you're well protected. In simple terms, if you shop online, by phone or mail order, you have the same consumer rights if items are faulty as if you were shopping at a high street store. You also have an additional "cooling-off period".
The cooling-off period gives you seven working days from the day after the goods arrive to cancel the sale and ask for a refund if you change your mind. Yet I've seen websites that say you have to return unsuitable goods within a week. This isn't correct. The seven working day deadline relates to when you have to tell the company you'd like a refund, not when the company must have received returned items.
Cancelling the sale
The law says you should tell the retailer in writing if you want to cancel your order (email is fine), although many online sites seem to prefer you to do this over the phone. This cooling-off period applies to things like discount vouchers as well as services, including things like online-dating websites. In this case, the clock starts ticking when you place your order.
There are some items that you can't return – for understandable reasons. For example, if you've had something custom made or altered for you, you can't send it back. You also can't return CDs, DVDs, etc, if you've opened the packing, or "perishable items" such as fresh flowers or food.
The cost of returning items
You may have to pay the postage when you return something you've ordered, depending on the retailer's policy (and sometimes, whether it has a special offer on online sales). Whether you have to pay and, if so, how much, will be in the terms and conditions.
Items not arriving
All this assumes that your order has arrived in the first place. Online retailers often promise to deliver items within a fairly short time frame – and many do.
However, if your order is a no show, the law is on your side once again. It's the retailer's responsibility to ensure that the order arrives. Not the delivery company's and definitely not yours.
Contact the retailer if your order doesn't arrive by the agreed time. If they try and fob you off and say it's the delivery company's fault, stand your ground! If all else fails and you think you'll never receive your order, you can simply use your cooling off rights to get a refund.
When you shop online, by phone or mail order, you have the same rights as someone shopping on the high street. That means if something develops a fault, if it's not as described or not fit for purpose (such as a memory card isn't compatible with a camera you were told it would fit), you can get a repair, replacement or – in some circumstances – a refund.
Some online retailers will tell you that you can only return faulty items within the first 14 days and after that it's the manufacturer's responsibility to put right any faults.
However, the law is quite clear that you – as a shopper – have a contract with the retailer and not the manufacturer.
In fact, if something you've bought new develops a fault within the first six months, it's up to the retailer to show that the fault wasn't there when they sold it to you, not to you to show it was.
Online auction sites and marketplaces
You're covered by all these rules if you buy from any business (but not a private individual), although you're only given a cooling-off period if you buy on an auction site like eBay using something like "buy it now" and not if you bid for something in a live auction.
Make sure you know how you're protected because you can't count on the retailer to get it right. If you think you're being fobbed off, get in touch with Citizens Advice consumer rights team.
Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
How to start your own internet business
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...
£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...
£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...
Day In a Page
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away