The Office of Fair Trading has alerted 62 of the UK’s biggest online retailers warning them that their web sites may not be fully complying with consumer protection laws.
The survey of the top 156 e-retailers, conducted ahead of the peak Christmas period, aims to work with retailers to ensure that consumer confidence of online shopping increases.
“The OFT recognises that most businesses want to play fair with their customers and to comply with the law,” said Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the Goods and Consumer Group at OFT.
Key areas of concern that the OFT has raised with retailers include:
One third of sites that provided information on cancellation appeared to impose unreasonable restrictions on customers’ rights to a refund. Most common was requiring that the product must be in the original packaging or in the original condition, which can infringe on consumers’ rights to reasonably inspect/ assess the product.
60% provided a web contact form rather than an email contact address, as required by the E-Commerce Regulations. Two per cent provided no electronic contact details at all.
While 60% of sites indicated upfront that compulsory charges would be added to the first price shown, 24 per cent of these sites went on to add further unexpected charges at the check-out.
Traders that do not make amendments to comply with the law risk formal enforcement action from the OFT or Local Trading Standards Services.