Buying by internet, phone or mail order or on the high street this Christmas –Advice from Highland Council Trading Standards

UK consumers spend billions of pounds when shopping for Christmas gifts for family and friends.  Spending figures for online shopping increase each year.  However, how many of us know our online shopping rights or what to do if things go wrong? Or our shopping rights we have on the high street. image

Highland Council Trading Standards are focusing on informing consumer of their rights when shopping online or on the high street, in the run up to Christmas as well as how to stay safe online from scams and fake websites that try to dupe inexperienced online shoppers trying to buy a bargain.

Consumers have extra protection when they shop online.  These rights also apply if you shop over the phone; or from a mail order catalogue; or from a TV shopping channel.

Whether shopping online or on the high street, consumers are also required to be informed of specific information BEFORE they enter into a contract.

Here are a few tips from Highland Council Trading Standards to ensure that you are a savvy shopper this Christmas:

Buying online (distance sales contracts)

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 were introduced on 13th June 2014 and require traders to give you certain information as well as give you cancellation rights when shopping at a ‘distance’.   These regulations have since been their introduction to include “off-premises sales” contracts. 

Off-premises sales contracts include sales away from trader or business premises (e.g. a consumers home) as well as distance sales contracts. 

Contacting the retailer - Online retailers have to give details of who they are and provide a geographical address and an email address at which to contact them.

Read terms and conditions before you order! – Check out terms and conditions regarding special price offers and sale items to ensure you are getting the price advertised.  Also check for extra charges such as ‘delivery charges’ which may not be added on to your final bill until you confirm your order.

Cancelling your order - you can cancel your order for goods ordered online anytime from the moment you place your order up to 14 days after you receive it.  However,    traders can withhold a refund until goods are returned

What you can’t return  - There are some items you can't return if you simply change your mind, such as CDs, DVDs or software if you've broken the seal on the wrapping, perishable items such as food and flowers, and tailor-made or personalised goods.

Returning goods - If an online shop doesn't explain who pays to send returned goods back, then they must pay. Otherwise it is the consumers’ responsibility to return the goods to the trader no later than 14 days after cancellation.   A business can deduct money from a refund if goods have been used beyond reasonable handling.

Refunds: - No fee may be charged for reimbursement of a refund and all payments should be made using the same means of payment , unless the consumer has agreed otherwise.  Reimbursement must be made without delay and no later than 14 days after the trader receives the goods back or has supplied evidence of having sent the goods back.

Provision to prevent hidden costs.

The new requirements offer further protection from potential hidden costs in that they:

  • Prohibit excessive surcharges for payment methods
  • Trader telephone helplines consumers must not pay more than basic rate of call
  • Traders must obtain consumers active consent for any additional payments (no tick boxes allowed!)

Remember: If the trader does not provide you with information on your cancellation rights, the cancellation period can be extended by up to 12 months depending on if / when the information was provided.

Further advice and information for consumers can be found at:

Buying on the high street and online

Returning faulty goods


New provisions are now provided under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for both purchases you make ‘off-premises’ (e.g. online) or on premises (e.g. on the high street), in that not only must the seller have the right to sell the goods (i.e. – the person transferring or selling the goods must have the right to do so) but the goods must:  


  • Be of satisfactory quality
  • Be fit for a particular purpose
  • Match the description, sample or model
  • NEW Be installed correctly – where installation has been agreed as part of the contract.  

Remedy for breach - Goods (Full Refund)

  • NEW short term right to reject (30 day time limit). If goods do not meet statutory requirements consumer is entitled to reject the goods within 30 days. (The 30 days starts from purchase; delivery or completion of contract - whichever is later).
  • NEW - A full refund must be given without delay and within 14 days of trader agreeing that the consumer is entitled to a refund.


 Burden of Proof:

A consumer can also choose (as a remedy) a:  

  • Repair OR
  • Replacement OR
  • Price Reduction OR
  • Final Right to Reject

If the fault is discovered within 6 months of delivery, it is assumed that fault was there at time of delivery unless the trader can prove otherwise or unless there are signs of excessive wear and tear or misuse. If you are claiming repair or replacement more than six months after purchase, the burden of proof is back to YOU, the consumer.

Delivery of Goods – Failure to deliver on time

A consumer can treat the contract as at end if:

  • the trader has refused to deliver the goods
  • delivery of the goods within the time was essential, taking into account all relevant circumstances
  • the consumer has told the trader that delivery within the time was essential
  • in all other circumstances the consumer can make time of the essence and then bring the contract to an end


Delivery times- where there has been no agreement about when the goods will be delivered the goods must be delivered ‘without undue delay’ and in any event ‘not more than 30 days’ after the contract was entered into.

Remember - If the goods that you have bought are faulty or not what you ordered or the goods you have ordered do not arrive or do not arrive on time you have rights against the seller!   

Buying presents through and online market place or auction – your rights

An online auction or market place can be a great way of saving money and picking up bargains or unusual presents for Christmas.  However, do be aware that if you buy goods from a private individual and not a business that you do not have the shopping rights. 

Buyer beware however, as you can only reject goods and ask for refund from a private individual if the goods you receive are ‘not as described’.

It’s always worth looking at the seller rating and feedback to see what others have said about their purchasing experience with any seller whether it is a business or a private individual. 

Always read the terms and conditions of any online auction site before you ‘bid’ online or make a purchase. 

Remember to protect your payment.  Make your payment either through Paypal or by debit/credit card.  Payments for goods either through Ukash Vouchers or by Bankers draft/cheque are not protected so if the goods your order never arrive, it is unlikely that you can trace your payment or get your money back.

Be safe paying online this Christmas

Don’t fall foul of online scams or fraud this Christmas - take a few simple steps to protect yourself:

  • Install the right software Make sure you have good virus protection, anti-spyware software and a firewall.
  • Update your browser Make sure you're using the latest version of your browser, and have it set to the highest security level and install updates when prompted.
  • Avoid dodgy links - Don't navigate to sites by clicking links in emails or from adverts. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a site, use a search engine to research it.
  • Do some security checks - Secure sites will display a locked padlock or key symbol in the browser window. They will also have an address that begins 'https' instead of the usual 'http'.
  • Choose your payment method wisely It can be a good idea to get a credit card that you use just for online purchases as it'll make it easier for you to track your genuine purchases.  Also under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (as amended) you have extra rights if you pay for single items which cost £100 or over, as both your credit card company and the retailer could be equally liable for goods which turn out to be either faulty; mis-described or do not arrive.
  • Be savvy about your password If a site asks you to create a password, use a combination of letters and numbers and avoid using passwords that you've used before.

Consumers can talk to an advisor for help and advice from  Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06

or by going to:

Further information on your rights by going to Highland Trading Standards news page at:




5 Dec 2017