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Many Online Retailers Are ‘Flouting The Law’

OVER 16,000 internet retailers are flouting the law, says UK internet watchdog SafeBuy. It describes internet retailing as a ‘Wild West’.
Richard Jones, ceo of SafeBuy says, ‘25% of SMEs surveyed had breached legal requirements for online trading, including displaying a proper geographic address, a contact phone number and an email address, plus having a legally-compliant goods returns policy.’
SafeBuy has a comprehensive Code of Best Practice for UK internet retailing. It assesses websites for compliance. Those which pass can display the SafeBuy Consumer Care confidence mark on their website.
The research reviewed 225 random SME websites not accredited by SafeBuy. It found that:
7% did not advise the customer before paying that they have a legal ‘right of return’ if they change their mind after ordering:
6% did not provide a geographic address:
20% did not publish a contact e-mail address.
Richard Jones says, ‘there are 65,000 UK online retailing sites not accredited by SafeBuy. Extrapolating the findings could mean some 16,250 of those do not complying with the law.
‘We found a significant number of websites going to shocking lengths to prevent consumers exercising their legal right of return, for example:
‘We will use our discretion in deciding whether to accept a return’; ‘If you open the packaging you can’t return the products’; and ‘If you’ve tested the product… you’ll have to pay us a fee’ (All the above are illegal).
But the research team’s favourite was: ‘Returns must be in perfect condition’ (which apparently tries to rule out sending back any faulty or damaged-in-transit goods, which is clearly illegal).
Here’s a 10-point checklist:
1. Does the site display the consumer’s rights to return unwanted goods. And is there a clear ‘How to return’ section?
2. Does the website display a geographic address, contact email and phone number, not just a ‘contact us’ form?
3. Is the method and cost of delivery clearly indicated before the order is placed?
4. Is the security level for each online payment option clearly shown?
5. Does the website explain how to lodge a complaint and detail the complaint procedure?
6. Does the website clearly show the contract terms, including guarantees and warranties? And does it state that these do not affect the consumer’s statutory rights?
7. Does the site state that all the consumer’s data will be kept private in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the EC Communications Directive 2003?
8. Does the website say that the retailer adheres to the terms of the UK Sale of Goods Act and EU Distance Selling Regulations?
9. Are phone numbers on the website for queries relating to an order charged at no more than the normal UK inland rate? If technical support lines are charged at a premium rate is this clearly stated?
10. Does the site display the SafeBuy accreditation logo to give consumers absolute confidence that it has been independently verified?
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This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at