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Consumer Protection – things you NEED to know!

Consumer Protection – things you NEED to know!

1. Your online rights give you greater protection than if you were shopping in store.

Did you know that you have extra rights when shopping online, rather than shopping in store? That’s because consumer protection laws give you a 14-day cooling off period after you purchase the goods. So, you have a full 14 days to decide whether to return the goods and receive a full refund including any delivery charges you paid. You then have a further 14 days to return the goods, so up to 28 days to return the goods. Although bear in mind that you must signal your intention to return it within that initial 14 days.

It is still down to you to pay for the cost of returning the items. However, it does give you significantly more protection than shopping in store as shops are only obliged by law to take the items back if they are faulty. Most of the big names will have a return policy that allows you to change your mind but it is not enshrined in law as it is for online shopping.

You could research your item off line, in the shops, but still buy it online to gain the maximum protection. If you are making a big purchase such as furniture, this would allow you to look at it in real life, but if you just change your mind because it doesn’t fit in with your décor, it can go back. This is often called robo- shopping!

2. Buy your larger purchases on a credit card.

You have extra protection if you buy your larger purchases on a credit card, courtesy of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the credit card provider equally liable with the retailer for anything that goes wrong with your purchase, provided that it is more than £100 up to a limit of £30,000.

This is particularly useful if you buy an item and the retailer goes bust between paying for the goods and you receiving the goods. Have a look at this story on the Money Saving Expert website, where a couple obtained a full refund of £23,000 on a kitchen, after paying the £200 deposit on their credit card!

Just be aware that you have to provide evidence of a direct link between you, the supplier and the credit card provider. So, watch out paying for items through intermediaries such as PayPal as you may not gain the same protection. It depends on lots of factors, the main one being whether you are using your PayPal balance or using a credit card set up on your PayPal account. If in doubt, and it’s over £100, use your credit card direct.

To make a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you need to contact your credit card provider and state that you are making a claim. If the retailer has gone bust then it should be straightforward to claim from the credit card company as there is no-one else to claim from!

If the retailer is still operating, then you may find that the credit card company will refer you back to the retailer. But if the retailer is uncooperative, then you are perfectly entitled to go back to the credit card provider; there is no rule as to who should be contacted first.

If you can’t get any satisfaction from either body, then you are entitled to go to the Financial Ombudsman and make a claim there. They will consider the claim and whether you have been treated fairly and in line with industry standards. This is important as they will look beyond the legal issues. There may be times when you do not meet some of the legal requirements but if the Ombudsman feels that you have been treated unfairly, then you may succeed in your claim.

One last point, which is particularly relevant in Covid times, relates to when events have been cancelled. If you paid for an event such as a concert or perhaps a theatre trip, and paid for train tickets and/or a hotel, you are entitled to claim the associated lost costs too. You will need to approach the other companies first but most of these are non-refundable in the first instance so that’s where the Section 75 protection comes in.

And remember to ensure that you get the most out of your credit card, make sure that you clear the balance every month to avoid the interest charges.

3. Watch out for fake websites.

We can’t claim this is covered by Consumer Protection laws but we are here to offer advice to protect you!

Some fake websites are set up to sell iPads or other popular goods. If you’re not sure about a website, here’s some ways to spot if they might be bogus.

  • Check whether the website starts with https and/or whether it has a padlock in the bottom right corner. This will offer you some protection that the payment page is secure.
  • Check if the company is a registered UK company. You can search here on Companies House website:
  • Google the company or product in question to see what others have been saying. You may find reviews that mean you need to avoid it or possibly positive experiences.
  • You can check a website’s standing on to see if it ranks in the top 100,000.
  • Even if the retailer is legitimate and honest, they could still go bust before delivering your goods so there is always an element of risk.

We hope this information arms you to protect yourself against unscrupulous traders and their practices. Forewarned is forearmed!