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Gov to encourage e-commerce by clarifying consumer rights

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The Government plans to clarify and simplify consumers' rights in a bid to encourage online shoppers to make more use of them. It will publish a plan in the summer for helping shoppers to understand and exercise their rights.

Government-commissioned research has found that 57% of UK consumers overall said that they would take action about poor goods or services if they had more consumer knowledge. It found that younger shoppers who were more likely to shop online considered themselves more poorly informed and less likely to take action than others.

The research also found that consumers were significantly more reluctant to make complaints or seek refunds for internet-bought goods than those purchased in shops.

The research, carried out by TNS for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, found that consumers think they should have more protection as consumers, but are largely uninformed of their existing rights.

Younger shoppers and internet shoppers were the least well informed and least likely to take action. The study found that 91% of high street shoppers would be confident about returning goods or complaining, while just 56% of online shoppers felt the same way.

It found that shoppers aged 16 to 24, the age group likely to do the biggest proportion of their shopping online, were twice as likely to say that they did not have the confidence to complain or take action as any other age group.

"Young consumers know what they want and are smart about tracking down the best deals, whether online or in the high street," said Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas. "But our research suggests they're amongst the most at risk if something goes wrong."

The Government said that it would produce a White paper in the summer outlining its proposals for making consumer rights clearer and simpler to understand.

"We're looking at ways of strengthening consumer education for everyone, making consumer rights simpler and easier to understand, and protecting online shoppers from scams," said Thomas.

The Government said that the proposals would include proposals to combat e-crime and modernise consumer law.

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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