Know your rights and take care when buying online, warns Trading Standards Service

Date published: 11 December 2019

The Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards Service is advising consumers to take extra precautions and know their rights when buying goods from an online marketplace or social media platform.

Take care buying online at Christmas
Take care buying online at Christmas

We all love a bargain and many consumers will have taken advantage of Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals. Others may still be bargain hunting or searching online for that popular, in-demand Christmas present that may already have started to sell out in the shops.

Consumerline, which is part of the Trading Standards Service, regularly receives complaints from consumers about faulty, misdescribed, or counterfeit goods that have been bought online, as well as delays with delivery or goods not arriving at all. In the past 12 months 1,041 consumers sought advice from Consumerline about online purchases, with at least 132 (11%) of these relating to goods bought through social media channels.

Sharon Muldoon, from the Trading Standards Service, said: “When you buy goods from an online trader, you have your statutory rights in relation to the quality and description of the goods, just as you would if you had bought them from a shop. The goods must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose. If the goods are faulty you may be entitled to claim a refund, repair or replacement. In addition to these rights you will also normally have the right to return the goods and get your money back up to 14 days of having received them if you change your mind or they don’t suit. However, you must remember that these rights only apply to online traders.

“You take risks when you buy goods on an online marketplace such as Gumtree, eBay, Amazon or Facebook as you could be buying from a private seller and your rights are greatly reduced. You have no legal rights relating to the quality of goods if buying from a private seller. The goods must only be as described. It might not be that easy in practical terms seeking redress if things go wrong. Sellers can be overseas or unwilling to put things right.

“Counterfeiters and scammers always take advantage of online marketplaces so stay vigilant and do research to make sure that you don’t end up making expensive mistakes when doing your Christmas shopping. Don’t forget ‘Let the buyer beware’!”

Trading Standards Service advises consumers to take care when buying online and remember:

  • Always check reviews and feedback on sellers. Never rely on reviews from one website
  • Check the seller has a UK contact address and not just a domain name
  • Check the seller’s terms and conditions, including cancellation rights and any dispute resolution systems
  • Always pay by card or another secure method such as PayPal and never pay by money transfer
  • If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is

Consumers who have bought faulty or misdescribed items online or have ordered goods which have not been delivered should contact Consumerline on 0300 1236262 or alternatively log onto the Consumerline website (nidirect).

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires goods to be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose.
  2. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges Regulations) require that businesses contracting with consumers “at a distance” provide detailed information and a 14 day cancellation period.
  3. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
  4. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI 

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