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Online shopping in lockdown: Your consumer rights

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Written by: YourMoney.com
07/05/2020
The nation has turned to online shopping as lockdown continues to restrict movement. But with added pressure on retailers to meet demand, it’s important to understand your consumer rights.

The pandemic is creating a unique and unprecedented set of problems when it comes to online shopping. What are our retail rights if we face issues with an overseas delivery, receive a faulty item, returns/refunds or simply want to get in touch with the company to complain?

Thomas Pertaia, legal adviser from DAS Law explains what you need to know about your consumer rights…

Can I still order non-essential items online during lockdown?

There are no restrictions on the type of items that can be ordered online and therefore, it isn’t unlawful to order non-essential goods online.

I have placed an online order but my order has not been delivered. The website is claiming I must wait for months due to the crisis.

Under consumer legislation, the trader must deliver the goods to the consumer without undue delay and within 30 days after the contract is made, unless a separate agreement is reached between the consumer and trader.

If the goods are not delivered within the 30-day period or the agreed time, you can impose a reasonable timeframe within which the trader is required to deliver the goods. If the trader again fails to deliver the goods in this time frame, then you may treat the contract as at an end and ask for a refund.

I have gift cards and vouchers but the stores are closed. What are my rights?

If the gift card you have is expiring soon check with your particular retailer as many retailers are offering to extend the gift cards/vouchers. You may also be able to use the gift card online.

I ordered some goods from suppliers outside of the UK and I was sent the wrong item or the item was faulty or fake and the company is refusing to give me a refund.

If you have used your credit card under consumer legislation the credit card company may be liable to provide a refund if the goods purchased are over £100. You should contact your card provider to make a Section 75 claim.

If goods were purchased on debit card or are £100 or less, you may be able to use the chargeback scheme, which may allow you to claim a refund through your card provider. You may also be covered if you have a cyber insurance policy.

Do I have rights to return digital items such as e-books, games, software?

In most cases, when downloading digital content customers waive their cancellation rights. This means once content is downloaded, there is no right for a refund, especially if the content has already been consumed.

But do check the terms and conditions as some online retailers may offer a cooling off period. However, if the content is not as described or defective you are entitled to have the digital content repaired or replaced, or if not possible to potentially obtain a full refund.

I have subscription plans e.g. for meal/catering, clothes etc. Can I cancel it and get a refund?

If the services are no longer provided, you may be able to cancel the membership and get a refund, which would largely depend on the terms and conditions of the particular supplier and what alternatives are offered instead of cancellation. If you cannot reach an agreement with the supplier, it is advisable you seek legal advice in relation to your particular matter.

What are my rights around memberships e.g. season tickets, social clubs, and museums?

If the services are no longer provided you may be able to cancel the membership and get a refund, which would largely depend on the terms and conditions of the particular supplier and what alternatives are offered instead of cancellation. If you cannot reach an agreement with the supplier, it is advisable you seek legal advice in relation to your particular matter.

Do I have any legal rights to return something if I have changed my mind or found the same item at a cheaper price?

If you purchased the item online, under consumer legislation you generally have 14 days to return the item for a refund, but the retailer may offer more time. If an item is purchased in a store this would solely depend on the stores own return policy.

If I order a product and am charged customs fees, do I have to pay them?

The fees are generally payable by the customer if they have ordered an item from abroad. Do check the terms and condition to see if the seller has given an undertaking they will refund the costs incurred.

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