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Shoppers charged £100s to return goods to dodgy ‘top ranking’ retail sites

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Customers are being charged up to £300 to return online purchases to ‘dodgy’ retailers which pay Google to sit prominently on the search engine.

Some online retailers, which attract over one million visits a month, have been found to treat customers unfairly and subject them to unreasonable charges, an investigation has revealed.

In some cases, firms were charging “re-stocking fees” of up to £300 for customers wishing to return items, demanding goods are returned in “brand new” condition, and requiring buyers pay to post faulty items back to sellers in Hong Kong.

The investigation by Which? found that while the companies – based in various countries – are bound by UK consumer law, they have breached the rights and regulations when it comes to returns and faulty goods.

Which? looked at electronic retailers eGlobalCentral UK, TobyDeals and Techinthebasket which all appear within Google’s top shopping results for gadgets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Apple iPhone 11 and Apple AirPods.

It found that Hong Kong-based eGlobalCentral UK charged customers £15 if an order was cancelled after being processed and it can charge a re-stocking fee of £30-£300 if the terms of its returns policy aren’t met.

TobyDeals, also based in Hong Kong, states customers could face a £20 administration fee if they cancel after an order has been processed and warned of a £50 re-stocking fee for any missing accessories.

eGlobalCentral UK states it will only accept returns of goods “in brand new condition” and in the original packaging.

Both eGlobalCentral UK and TobyDeals said faulty goods must be returned within 14 days while Techinthebasket only allows 14 days for a return.

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations customers have the right to cancel an order placed online at any time free of charge. Customers have at least 14 days after the product has been received to request a full refund and a further 14 days for the return to be received.

Ahead of Black Friday, Which? advises bargain shoppers to be wary of offers from little-known brands.

Adam French, consumer rights expert, said: “It seems wrong that firms that breach consumer laws can pay Google to secure prominent slots at the top of shopping search results.

“This is a significant gap in consumer enforcement, which reinforces why the next government must carry out a major overhaul of the system to reflect how people buy goods and services today.”

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