OFT writes volley of stern letters to naughty web retailers
You are in serious danger of getting another letter
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has warned well-known online retailers trading in Britain that some of them could face formal enforcement action from the watchdog if they failed to comply fully with consumer protection law.
It said the regulator had, ahead of the busy Christmas shopping period, written letters to 62 leading companies that sell goods on the web, after it carried out a "sweep" of 156 sites to uncover potential violations of existing legislation.
The OFT said it had searched for possible breaches of the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs) during its probe of online stores.
It found key areas of concern, which it has since raise with retailers. The watchdog said:
- 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.
The OFT said that most of the websites that market research outfit BDRC Continental looked at on behalf of the regulator during the investigation, were found to be compliant with the DSRs in providing other required information to the consumer, such as explaining when the good would be delivered.
But it warned:
Traders that do not make amendments to comply with the law risk formal enforcement action from the OFT or Local Trading Standards Services.
It also offered up some hand-holding with an online guidance tool being created to advise how companies can ensure that they are operating correctly with consumer protection law.
The OFT added that it was yet to formally determine whether some of those sites subjected to the sweep had breached the DSRs.
Consumers who think their rights are being violated by UK-based online retailers can report it to the Citizens Advice hotline (08454 040506), the OFT added. ®
There are also in-shop tricks..
I have seen a well know large retailer start to put out discounts now, which have an expiry date in small print around mid November, then leave those prices on display. When people go to pay for them they will face the full price as the ticket shows in tiny letters an expired offer date.
I should walk in again, last time they ended up selling things at the discount price to me, because that was cheaper than getting a visit from Trading Standards with all the photographic evidence I collected..
"My web form not only emails the customer and me "
Not my experience of most web forms. Good that yours is different, but maybe you can see why others may object when confronted with a form.
Re: There are also in-shop tricks.. TESCO
Having bought a chocolate pudding from Tesco I eagerly opened the tub took one mouthful and spat it out, it was so 'off' I had to rinse my mouth out to get rid of the taste. It was well within the sell by date.
Taking it back the next day I asked for a refund, they refused because I had not bought my receipt. The pudding was incidentally a Tesco product. They were happy to exchange it, I wanted my money back, £1. I was going to use the pound to but a paper.
They refused, it was exchange or nothing. It then became a matter of principle.
I asked to see the manager who duly arrived and stated it was store policy, no refund without the receipt.
I reminded him that store policy does not take precedence over the consumer rights act. He stood his ground, but so did I, a queue began to form behind me.
The deadlock was finally broken when I said that I would contact the Environmental Health Department and they may well want to investigate this and have a look round his store.
I got my £1 back.
The bottom line is that the Manager at Tesco had been poorly trained, just like most of the customer services departments in this country.