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Shoppers unsure about buying from EU websites

Most people unsure of their rights when shopping cross-border


Most online shoppers would rather buy something from a UK-based website even if it was available at a cheaper price from a European website. 

New Which? research found that people are generally concerned about purchasing from websites based outside the UK. 

Almost half of those surveyed said they’d prefer to buy from a UK retailer even if the item was cheaper on an EU-based website.

One of the key reasons was concern that it would be too difficult to get a refund if something went wrong with 53% citing this as their reason.

But many consumer rights laws are broadly the same across the EU so it may not be as difficult as it may first appear for consumers to get redress.

Read our guide to your rights when purchasing from websites based in the EU

Unsure about consumer rights 

Three quarters of people who have bought online in the last two years said they check – at least sometimes – where the retailer is based before purchasing. 

Despite shoppers’ concerns about purchasing from websites based outside the UK but within the EU, 43% of those who bought something online over the last two years did just this. 

But three in ten people who bought something online over the last two years didn’t know whether they had the same consumer rights when purchasing from retailers based in different countries. 

When shopping online, the rights that UK consumers have also apply in other EU countries so you’re protected if you change your mind about an online purchase in the same way as in the UK. 

However, the Sale of Goods Act may not apply in the same way to purchases bought from EU-based websites. 

While in EU countries you’ll be entitled to get a repair or a replacement for faulty goods, legislation doesn’t always give you the right to reject goods and get a refund.  

Protection under the Brussels Regulation

Under the Brussels Regulation you may be able to argue that as an EU consumer buying from an EU trader the laws of your home country can take priority over that of the seller. 

This means – depending on the circumstances – you may be able to argue that you’re protected by the Sale of Goods Act which states that goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose and gives you the right to reject goods within a reasonable time. 

Read our step-by-step guide if you want to return an item bought from another EU country

Shopping while on holiday

If you buy something face-to-face when you’re on holiday in the EU, then the laws of the country in which you make the purchase usually apply.

So if your product develops a fault, the laws of that country will ordinarily determine your right to redress.

Getting redress is now much easier thanks to the European small claims court procedure. This system has been standardised across all EU countries making it simpler for consumers to make a claim. 

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