Staying safe online - Be aware of your consumer rights

People looking to pick up a New Year bargain in the sales on the internet, by mail order or on the high street are being encouraged by The Highland Council’s Trading Standards team to be aware of their consumer rights and 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 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: www.highland.gov.uk/distancecontracts

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
Be installed correctly – where installation has been agreed as part of the contract.

Remedy for breach - Goods (Full Refund)
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). 
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 

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