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Your rights online

Shoppers need longer to cancel

Millions of UK shoppers are getting a raw deal because they don’t have the same rights as their Continental counterparts, according to Citizens Advice.

The charity says that inconsistent cancellation rights across the EU mean that UK shoppers who buy online, by mail order or over the phone have more problems returning unwanted goods than shoppers elsewhere in Europe.

You can’t examine something physically before you buy from home, so cancellation rights allow you to change your mind and get a refund if the goods turn out to be unsuitable.

Citizens Advice says UK shoppers have only seven working days to cancel (starting from the day after you received the goods), while those in Italy and Germany have ten and 14 working days respectively. The charity now wants a minimum 14-day cooling-off period across Europe.

System ‘isn’t working’

Policy director Teresa Perchard said: ‘Cancellation rights are complex and too often traders let British consumers down. It’s clear from the experience of CAB clients that the present system is not working.’

A CAB client from West Yorkshire sought advice when a company to which she returned a mobile phone – using her cancellation rights – continued to bill her. She cancelled just one day after receiving the phone, but it took 10 months to stop the bills.

Citizens Advice says that the different timescales around Europe are adding to confusion when people buy from a different country – for example, over the internet – and it believes the ways in which consumers can cancel are too restricted.

Now it’s urging the UK government to streamline cancellation rights, as part of the current EU-wide review of consumer laws.

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