OFT: Third of online retailers guilty of breaking consumer laws

Posted on October 31, 2012


The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has called for urgent action to be taken after recent analysis suggested that over a third of online retailers could be breaching consumer laws.

The checks carried out, which looked at 156 of the most used websites, brought to light 62 that were in breach of current regulations. The guidelines breached included restrictions on refunds and unadvertised additional charges at the payment stage. Another major issue was the failure to provide a direct email address.

One of the major problems found in the investigation was misinformation being given regarding the return of goods. Customers were advised that all returns should be in the original packaging and goods must be in original condition. However, according to the OFT such restrictions could breach the rights of the customer to inspect or assess a product.

The majority of sites, however, were complying with their obligations. The regulator’s Cavendish Eilthorn said:

“The OFT recognises that most businesses want to play fair with their customers and to comply with the law.”

The senior director went on to say that all online retailers were encouraged to check that customer rights are being respected. It is missing such details, perhaps in striving for excellent SEO, that retailers large and small can fall foul.

The retailers in question have been told that their websites need to be changed by Christmas and could face court action and fines if they fail to comply.

The OFT has said that no such action has been needed previously.

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