Online retailers urged to change their websites
By Daniel Hunter
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has written to 62 of the top online retailers ahead of the busy Christmas period after a sweep of 156 websites found signs that many may not be fully complying with consumer protection law.
The sweep looked for potential breaches of the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs) and other consumer protection laws and is part of the OFT's ongoing work to ensure that consumers can shop confidently online.
Key areas of concern that the OFT has raised with retailers include:
- 33 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent 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.
However, the sweep also found that the majority of sites were compliant with the DSRs in providing other required information to the consumer. For example, 99 per cent of sites provided details on when the goods would be delivered or the service would start and 95 per cent provided a full geographical address when payment was required in advance.
Traders that do not make amendments to comply with the law risk formal enforcement action from the OFT or Local Trading Standards Services.
To support compliance with the regulations the OFT has created a web-based guidance tool for businesses, the Distance... continued on page two >