Launch of Internet delivery charges survey

In order to understand the extent of the problem of Internet delivery charges, The Highland Council’s Trading Standards team are looking to gather evidence from Highland consumers and small businesses about any malpractice they have experienced and to trace and tackle those businesses that fall foul of internet trading law.

Today (Thursday) they are launching a web survey from The Highland Council’s web site: www.www.highland.gov.uk to gauge the experiences of Highland consumers and small businesses about what often seems like excessive delivery charging for goods bought online.

The Council says that controlling what businesses charge for delivery is not something that is currently feasible, but the accuracy of any statements made about charges, the clarity of those charges and at what point during the online purchase process the charges are made clear, are all subject to legal controls.

Other forms of distance selling, although subject to the same regulations are not considered to present the same problems, but anyone who has had a bad experience involving delivery charges when buying goods by mail or telephone can also contact Trading Standards direct.

Councillor John Laing, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Transport Environmental and Community Services Committee said:  “The Highland Council has a duty to ensure that laws protecting on-line buyers are not flouted.  If companies in other parts of the United Kingdom want to sell their products to Highland residents then they must go about their business in an open and honest manner.  Our Trading Standards Officers will take action against those who don’t.  This project is the latest stage in our ongoing efforts to protect internet buyers in Highland and I would urge people to take part in the survey.”

Delivery costs to the remoter areas of the United Kingdom can be more expensive and it is not illegal for businesses to ask buyers to pay reasonable additional delivery surcharges based on where they live.  However, businesses cannot, for example, make claims such as ‘Free UK Delivery’ when in truth hidden surcharges apply to the Highlands.  All applicable delivery charges must be displayed clearly.

Gordon Robb, The Highland Council’s Trading Standards Manager, said: “We want online retailers to make their delivery charges open and transparent so that customers don’t end up wasting their time going through what can seem like a fairly laborious online process or actually making online purchases that they wouldn’t have pursued if they had known the true charges upfront.  It is against the law to hide or postpone beyond a certain point in an internet transaction the fact that additional charges apply. Put simply, retailers need to make it clear what delivery charges apply well before a consumer gets to the checkout.”

The web survey has been created so consumers across the Highlands can quickly and easily let Trading Standards know of any online business that appears not to be dealing with their customers fairly on this issue of delivery charges.

Mr Robb added: “We want consumers and businesses that have experienced unfair or misleading delivery charges online to contact us and give our officers the details so that we can investigate and take action against the offending sites.  A page that can easily be found on the Highland Council website has been set up that is dedicated to this project.  The webpage contains background information and a simple on-line form for us to collect details of bad practice.  We are committed to improving the way Highland residents are treated online.  The webpage is up and running right now and can be completed very easily.” 

-END-

Notes for Editors:

a. The Law 

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 require retailers to be upfront about their delivery charges.  It is an offence to indicate charges that are lower than those actually charged.  It is also an offence to fail to provide full information about delivery charges, or to provide it in a way that is hidden, ambiguous, unclear or untimely.

b. previous press release: http://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/4926/delivery_charges_discussed_with_mp

9 Nov 2011
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