Top online shops breaking consumer lawMore than 60 retailers are misleading consumers

12 October 2012

More than 60 ‘top online retailers’ are flouting consumer law by failing to provide accurate information about consumer shopping rights.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has written to 62 retailers ahead of the Christmas period after a sweep of 156 website found a series inaccuracies. 

These included unreasonable restrictions on refunds, inadequate contact details and unexpected charges.

Read our latest Which? Conversation blog on online retailers flouting consumer law by not enabling you to cancel your order. 

In breach of Distance Selling Regulations

The OFT has declined to name those involved while it waits for them to make the requested changes, a spokesman said.

The website sweep to check for breaches of the  found 33% of sites that provided information on cancellations appeared to impose unreasonable restrictions on refunds. 

The most common restriction was requiring the product to be in its original packaging or original condition, making it difficult for customers to reasonably inspect the item.

It also revealed that 60% provided a web contact form rather than an email contact address, while 2% provided no electronic contact details at all.

And while 60% of inspected websites indicated up-front that compulsory charges would be added to the headline price, 24% of these added further unexpected charges at the checkout.

Offending websites face enforcement action

Those that do not make the required changes risk formal enforcement action from the OFT or local Trading Standards officers.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: 'We're pleased to see the OFT taking action against online retailers who fail to stick to the rules.

'For too long online shoppers have been getting a raw deal from some retailers who ignore the law. That's why this week we're launching an online guide to help people know their shopping rights at Christmas. 

'Online retailers must raise their game and ensure they're fully compliant with the law, giving their customers the service they deserve' 

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