Online marketplace shopping

This is a guide to your rights when buying or selling using an online marketplace. You can also read more specific advice about some of the most popular online marketplaces:

If you paid or received payment using PayPal, see our guide to buying using PayPal, and selling using PayPal.

Top tips for online marketplace shopping

1. What do past customers have to say? Do some research before you commit to a purchase. Start by checking the seller or customer ratings and reviews.

2. Check the delivery method. How much are they charging? Is it collection only? How much will delivery fees affect the final cost?

3. Check the returns policy. There’s comfort in knowing that if you don’t like a purchase, you can always exchange it or get a refund. Although you have extra protections when shopping online, it isn't always the case when buying specific products or from a private individual.

4. Buying from Europe? The base-level of consumer protection laws in other EU countries are very similar to ones in the UK, but any additional protections were left to discretion of each member state. There is an EU online dispute resolution service (ODR), to help solve disputes within the EU.

5. Buying from outside Europe? Your protections will largely depend on the domestic laws of where the trader is based. The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) offer advice on how to resolve a cross border dispute.

Avoid potentially unsafe and counterfeit goods

Many online marketplaces don’t verify the products for sale. If you can, it’s a good idea to check anything you want to buy in person before handing over your cash. Especially before you buy big ticket items such as cars or white goods.

As always with online sales and as a general rule, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Remember you could be criminally liable if you buy or sell stolen goods.

It's best practice to check independent reviews of anything you want to buy online. It’s also a good idea to check if the product has been subject to a product recall or if a safety notice has been issued, and learn your rights if there's a safety warning or product recall.

Who are you buying from?

By law, when you’re dealing with a business as a consumer, you need to know - or be able to find out - who you're dealing with.

A retailer or trader's identity and address must be displayed at their place of business, on key business documents and on its website.

This information must also be made available to you before a contract is made and whenever you request it.

If the retailer or trader fails to disclose that it’s a limited company and there is then a breach of contract, you may then be able to claim against the directors of the business as individuals.

If the retailer or trader fails to disclose that it’s acting as an agent for someone else, then you may be able to make any claim directly against that trader.

Will my online marketplace rights be different when the UK leaves the EU?

Even though many of rules relating to consumer rights are based on EU directives, most are also in UK law.

Your right to return goods bought from an EU retailer won’t change from your existing rights.

Unless the EU retailer is actively marketing their goods to the UK, you’ll be buying the goods under the law of that country.

So, if you purchase marketplace goods from France, French law will apply.

Not sure how to tell if a company is actively marketing to the UK? Looking for more information on your rights after Brexit? Read our guide on consumer rights and Brexit for more information.

What are my online marketplace return rights?

It all depends on whether you bought from an individual or a business.

If you buy from a trader or retailer then your rights are no different than if you’d bought from any other online store. It’s also worth checking the Terms and Conditions of the online marketplace as it may offer greater protection for buyers and sellers who use it.

Even if the item you want to buy is second hand, you have the same rights as you do when buying new. The seller is required to tell you about any faults or problems - just remember to factor in realistic wear and tear.

If all else fails you can also try to make a chargeback claim via your bank. Chargeback lets you ask your bank to reverse a transaction on your credit or debit card. Marketplace

If you have a problem with a purchase made from a Marketplace seller via the website, you can report it to the site, which will then determine if you're eligible for a refund. 

Amazon’s A-Z Safe Buying Guarantee states that in order to be refunded, your experience must meet one of the following conditions:

  • the item was not delivered within 3 days past the maximum delivery date estimate or 30 days from the order day, whichever is sooner.
  • the item was damaged, defective, materially different or you changed your mind and met Amazon's return policy but you haven't been refunded.
  • the seller agreed to refund you or replace the item but that didn't happen or the refund amount was wrong.
  • you want to return an item but the seller won't provide a UK address or a pre-paid return label, or offer a full refund without requesting the item to be returned.
  • you were charged extra, such as customs charges, and the seller did not cover these.

But you’ll need to act fast, this guarantee only allows you to make a claim within 90 days of the estimated delivery date.

If you buy from an individual on a marketplace this is similar to buying from a classified advert in a local paper and the principle of 'buyer beware' applies.

When you buy from an individual (as opposed to a retailer), it’s not as straightforward. While the goods you get must be as they were described to you by the seller, there's no obligation on the seller to disclose any faults.

But misrepresenting goods isn't allowed. For example, something second-hand should not be described as new. If it is, the seller will be in breach of contract.

If a seller takes your money but doesn’t send you anything, or if a buyer takes your item without paying, this will also be a clear breach of contract.

But putting things right can be tricky. If you can’t reach an agreement between yourselves you’ll have to try alternative dispute resolution or the small claims court.

Thankfully many online marketplaces have protection and dispute-resolution systems built-in. For example, if you buy from Ebay you can use the Resolution Centre to raise a dispute. Check the website of the online marketplace you're using to find out more.

What are my rights if I get a poor service?

Your rights are the same whether you’re dealing with a business or an individual - you should still receive the service you’ve contracted for.

But putting things right can sometimes be tricky. If you can’t reach an agreement between yourselves you’ll have to try alternative dispute resolution or the small claims court.

A service could be, for example:

  • transport
  • dry cleaning
  • entertainment
  • work done by professionals such as solicitors, estate agents and accountants
  • building work or home improvements

If the service you’re provided isn't up to scratch, you’re entitled to the following remedies under the Consumer Rights Act:

  • The service provider should either redo the element of the service that's inadequate, or perform the whole service again at no extra cost to you, within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience.
  • Or, in circumstances where the repeat performance is impossible, or can’t be done within a reasonable time or without causing significant inconvenience, you can claim a price reduction. Depending on how severe the failings are, this could be up to 100% of the cost, and the service provider should refund you within 14 days of agreeing that you're entitled to a refund.
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