Survey Highlights Need For Review Of Internet buying

A nationwide survey of internet shopping, involving Trading Standards officers with The Highland Council, has highlighted the need for the Government, trade organisations and those who deliver items sold on the web to launch a full review.

The results have been released to coincide with the National Consumer Week, which runs from Monday 31 October – Friday 4 November.

The survey, involving 21 councils in the United Kingdom, established the need for better controls regarding the sale of age-restricted goods over the internet. It was commonly found that the sale of items such as knives and alcohol to young people occurred due the lack of age checks made by traders offering these goods online.

The Trading Standards Institute has called for a ban on the sale of knives over the internet to combat these illegal sales.

The most complained-about products sold on the internet were computers, TVs and mobile telephones, with defective goods and failure or delay in delivery being the most common problems.

Counterfeit products were found to be commonplace, particularly on eBay, where many businesses also do not give buyers clear information about themselves, details of ‘cooling off’ periods or what to do if something goes wrong.

Trading Standards’ officers found that a range of consumer problems have been made by disgruntled consumers using the internet to buy goods from washing machines to new cars online. Delivery charges, delay in delivery of goods, faulty or mis-described goods are also a common theme with consumers who contact the Service either directly or through the national DTI Consumer Advice Line.

Nigel MacKenzie, Head of Trading Standards with The Highland Council, suggested that consumers may not be aware that there are rights to protect them online when purchasing goods off the internet.

He said: "Consumers may not be aware that they are protected under the Distance Selling Regulations and that other consumer protection legislation also applies to descriptions, prices and contract terms.

"Our role during National Consumer Week is to raise awareness of consumer rights in this fast growing area and ensure the consumer is well informed before they order goods or buy services from an internet trader. Trading Standards are also concerned about the number of scams relating to the sale of goods and the number of counterfeit goods. Many consumers come to us after the event, when the internet site may have disappeared and the monies been transferred. Some fraudsters can claim to be associated with other reputable businesses, such as banks and building societies, or claim to be recognised trade associations as a ruse to sound legitimate. Our message to consumers is to be on your guard and NOT to pass on credit card details or transfer monies unless they are sure there is a genuine business."

21 Apr 2006