‘62% of top online retailers breaking law’

Some of the UK’s biggest online retail brands have been ordered to change their sites after the consumer protection watchdog found they were not complying with distance selling laws.

Internet

The Office of Fair Trading has written to 62 of the top 100 sites to inform them they are falling short of distance selling regulation (DSRs). The retailers were not named.

Of particular concern, the OFT says in a statement, were sites “imposing unreasonable restrictions on customers’ rights to a refund”. Other concerns include failure to provide an email address for customers to query transactions and a lack of upfront warning about charges added at checkout.

Those found to be guilty of breeches to DSRs risk enforcement action from the OFT or local trading standards.

The OFT has developed an online hub to provide tips to retailers on complying with regulations.

Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the goods and consumer group at the OFT, says: “The OFT recognises that most businesses want to play fair with their customers and to comply with the law. We encourage all online retailers to check their websites so customers can be confident their rights are being respected when they shop online.”

The review of the top 100 UK online retailers was conducted in February.

Key findings

  • 33 per cent of sites imposed “unreasonable restrictions on customers’ rights to a refund” such as requiring the product must be in the original packaging or in the original condition.
  • 60 per cent provided a web contact form rather than an email contact address. Two per cent provided no electronic contact details at all.
  • 60 per cent of sites indicated upfront compulsory charges would be added to the first price shown but 24 per cent of these sites went on to add further charges at the check-out.

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