Safe Shopping Online.
Today most of us use online shopping, for gifts, groceries, clothing personal and household items. We also book holidays, concert tickets, air fares, trains & ferrys in fact everything we used to buy on the high street is available online and much more. Our choice is not restricted to whats in the store anymore, using the internet we are buying internationally, whether from Europe, the US or directly from China we now have access to more goods from more locations than at any other time in our history. Alongside that we have access to auctions selling everything from pens to power boats to horses to houses, whatever you want, if you have the funds, you can buy it online. This shopping revolution heralds one of the greatest changes in human behaviour in our history, we don't have to go shopping anymore the shops come to us, alongside this we now do most of our banking online.
While this change is great for us, the consumer, it also presents a golden opportunity for the thieves, scammers and con artists as it's never been so easy to steal money from unsuspecting customers. In the US alone Amazon & ebay get approx 300 million visitors every month, with numbers like that is it any wonder the scammers are targeting online shopping?
Everything is paid for electronically all the thieves need are a few numbers and minimum details to walk away with your hard-earned cash and they have, with $32 billion in 2014 defrauded just from US retailers (2014 LexisNexis® True Cost of FraudSM Study). The true amount of online theft is hard to determine but runs into the £100s of billions per year from banks, shops and shoppers.
Who ends up paying the cost of all this? It's all eventually passed down to the consumer with higher prices and increased insurance premiums.
The biggest scams aren't the ones that try to steal your money directly like bank frauds and money scams, they might get the most publicity but non delivery of goods and auction scams account for over 60% of all internet fraud.
While there is little we can do to stop criminals defrauding banks and retailers there is plenty we can do to protect ourselves while carrying out what should be a relatively simple and enjoyable experience, shopping online.
Before you start to shop or make any transactions online here are a few simple ways to protect yourself and reduce the chances of being defrauded:-
- Never, ever respond to an unsoliceted e-mail, in fact the best thing to do is delete it without opening it, no matter how enticing it seems. If you do open one and are tempted by what if offers do a search online about the offer, in many instances the scam report sites such as the as the Uk Governments scamwatch site will have already flagged up warnings about it, or the Police's Action Fraud website may have details about potential scams.
- Never ask any website to save your credit card details, no matter how secure a company claims your details are experience has shown us that if a criminal wants to get cardholders details they will.
- Never give your credit / debit card PIN to anyone or any business, if you are ever asked for your PIN immediately break contact and report the website or business to the Police cyber crime unit . If you converse with the scammers it gives them a chance to talk you into giving over details, these are professional con-men well used to manipulating.
- Never shop from a public wi-fi hotspot, they are public access points and unsecure.
- If possible shop using use a PC or tablet at home not your mobile phone, it's far easier to intercept online data from a mobile phone.
- Never buy anything from a website that is not prefixed with a padlock and https.
- Do not buy anything online with your debit card or wire money as you are not protected from fraud.
Open a paypal account or use your credit card. The biggest scam is non arrival of goods you have paid for, if you have paid by paypal and your goods do not arrive Paypal will refund your money, credit card companies also have fraud protection scehmes, pay cash, bank transfer or debit card and you will lose your money.
- Visit shoptheuknews.com for advice on Auction safety, WiFi safety and more safe shopping tips
Take a look at this guide from BBC webwise How to pay for things online
Guarantees when and how to deal with them
Most of our best buy products will have a minimum 2 year guarantee, as most household appliances are marketed as durable products (should last for 3 years of more under normal use) we believe that if a manufacturer is only willing to give a 1 year guarantee that shows a lack of faith in their products durability.
Thankfully most manufacturers are fully aware that in todays online world bad customer relations are extremely detrimental as it only takes one case of mishandling to go viral to adversely affect sales and ultimately share value.
Despite this we are aware that some manufacturers will offer a 2 year (or longer) guarantee as an incentive to get you to buy their product and then make it as difficult as possible for you, the consumer, to get them to honour it. Some actually belive that as their sale volume is so great they can safely fob off and lose a few customers by failing to honour, what is in fact, a legally binding agreement.
Dont let them get away with it: By issuing the guarantee they have committed themselves to a contractual obligation to refund, replace or repair your appliance depending on the terms stipulated in their guarantee.
ie :- Andrew James offer a 2 year contract and will refund your money up to 30 days after the purchase date if one of their appliances is faulty (in line with the 2015 consumer rights act), thereafter they will replace or repair the item until the end of the guarantee period.
Unlike warranties from specialist providers (those you buy to cover your appliance) which are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) the policy you get direct from the manufacturers are usually classified as service agreements, meaning they're not FCA regulated, so you cannot complain to the FCA ombudsman if the company tries to wheedle out of its obligations.
If the manufacturer requests it always register your appliance promptly.
In fact register it before you actually use it, in many cases registering activates your extended guarantee and failing to do so means you only are protected only by your statutory consumer rights. Some manufacturers such as Russell Hobbs will even give you an extra years guarantee (that's a free 3 year product guarantee) on some products just for registering. Even if some companies don't require it still register your appliance with them if possible. Make sure you include on the registration who and where you bought the appliance from.
Then photocopy the registration before you post it or save and print the page if you've registered online. At this stage if you have purchased your appliance from someone who has no agreement to or no legal right to sell the appliance the manufacturer should contact you with that information, if they don't the guarantee stands as they have had opportunity to disclose this information.
What to do if your appliance is faulty :
Thankfully in the majority of cases you simple follow this procedure and most retailers and manufacturers will honour their obligations:
According to the 2015 consumer rights act you should first go to the retailer you purchased from, they have an obligation to give a full refund within 30 days of purchase or a replacement or repair for a reasonable time thereafter (usually up to 6 months) as the appliance is under the manufacturers guarantee this should not present a problem for them.
You may also contact the manufacturer as specified in your instruction book or guarantee / warranty leaflet and they may ask you to return the appliance directly to them instead and they will handle the refund or replacement.
In case of faults developing after 6 months :
Take your appliance back to the retailer after 6 months and you may only get a partial refund or credit note as it's up to you to prove the goods were faulty when you bought them (that means they can allege that your misuse has caused the problem). This is why an extended manufacturers guarantee is so important as it adds to your statutory rights by offering full repair or replacement for the term specified (that is why it is so important to register your appliance with the manufacturer when you purchase it). This also protects you from the rogue retailer who refuses point-blank to follow consumer law, sometimes it's just easier to bypass the time-wasting and stress if you can deal with a decent manufacturer who has no issues with fulfilling their guarantee obligations.
If you are having difficulty with contact to get the guarantee honoured.
Make reasonable attempts to contact the company, in all contact be polite and give them a reasonable time to reply (2 weeks or 10 working days from date of delivery of letters or date of sending of e-mails).
Log any phone calls (but unless you have recorded them the company can deny they spoke to you). Make sure that you ask them to e-mail you any promises made or assurances given as you need written conformation as they can say anything they like on the phone and deny it afterwards.
E- mail the company and broadcast it to as many e-mail addresses within the company you can find, start the e-mail with :
“I understand this may be the wrong department to deal with this, but as I am unsure which department deals with these matters please can you forward it to the right department. Thank you"
Then outline your problem, quote the clause in your guarantee that applies to you and copy their guarantee agreement (usually available on the company website) and include it at the bottom of your e-mail, or scan the one you got with your appliance and add it as an attachment. Also attach the scan of your registration agreement or copy of the online registration form if you have registered.
Print a hard copy of your e-mail and post it by signed for mail (costs about £2.81 for an A4 letter weighing up to 500 grams), so you have proof of delivery, make sure you include a copy of their guarantee agreement (and copy of the registration agreement if you have one) along with your letter.
If they give a customer service address always send a copy to the head office as well, if no other address is given send it to the head office, you can send two one marked customer service, another marked legal department, you can cover all bases by sending a third copy marked Managing Director (if you can get their name from the company website use it).
You can normally find head offices of companies by typing the name of the company followed by head office into Google.
If you get a reply: If it is anything other than agreeing to honour their guarantee (ie :- they are looking into it, need more information, need to contact the retailer etc...) and you feel they are being unreasonable or stalling then write back enclosing copies of all previous correspondence and politely ask that they honour their guarantee, that you expect a response within 7 working days (a reasonable period as they are now working on your case) if they do want more information send it with this e-mail or letter. If you do not get a reply within that time or if they continue stalling then follow the small claims procedure.
If you don't get a reply : After 2 weeks (10 working days) resend all the e-mails and post copies of the original letters with another letter /e-mail informing the manufacturers that as they have failed to respond within a reasonable period you have no choice but to pursue them through the small claims court for the cost of the appliance plus the time, effort and money you have spent pursuing them. Again be reasonable tell them they have a further 5 working days to respond before you take action. If you still do not get a reply then follow the small claims procedure.
Small Claims Procedure: If they fail to respond after the 5 working day period do not let it lie, a small claims court will cost you from £25 depending on the amount claimed, you don't need a solicitor and you can apply online, your fees will be refunded if you are succesful along with your postage costs and an amount to compensate you for your time. In most instances the threat of action itself is enough to make most companies deal with your claim, others may wait until you have started proceedings then offer to settle before proceedings as if they cannot win the court costs will be far more than giving you a new appliance or refund and a few pounds by way of apology.
Moneysavingexpert.com is a really great website for all consumer affairs we recommend reading their small claims procedure guide it tells you just how easy this process is. While your there why not register with them? It's free and is one of the best consumer websites you can find.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
Consumer law is now much easier to understand, there is a clear procedure that both retailers and consumers can easily follow so any issue can now be resolved very easily.
This is a brief guide to your rights when buying goods and applies whether you buy online or in a shop on the street.
From any goods bought from the 1st October 2015:- they have to be
- Of Satisfactory quality
- As described
- Fit for purpose
- Last a reasonable length of time
If your purchase does not meet any of these then the law says the goods are faulty and you have the right to return them to the retailer (under your short-term right to reject) within 30 days and get a full refund. (buying the wrong sized clothes do not count as faulty goods, it's your mistake, but thankfully most shops will change them for you at their own discretion)
If a fault develops after 30 days you still return it to the retailer but you may only be entitled to an exchange, repair or part - refund. Unless the shop can prove that the goods were not faulty when you bought them.
If a fault develops after 6 months you have to prove to the retailer that the goods were faulty when you bought them.
Proof of purchase:- If your goods are faulty then you need to prove you have bought them from the retailer, if you've lost your receipt then any other genuine proof of purchase such as your bank or credit card statement will be enough.
This additional right also applies to phone orders and buying from catalogues: You have the legal right to cancel your order up to 14 days after delivery and have another 14 days to send (most) goods back for a full refund, unlike buying from a shop you can return the goods if you just change your mind the goods do not have to be faulty, although you will probably have to pay for the return delivery.
As Described :-
If you're buying something advertised to perform a task (ie:- a blender which can crush ice) and it cannot do it then it is not 'as described' and faulty under the Consumer rights act 2015.
If you are buying something for a specific purpose, such as a clothes press to smooth your sheets don't just assume it is right for your needs if you've asked the shop if sheet will fit OK and they have said yes and you get home and the hinge stops you from feeding the sheet through then it's 'not as described'. If you didn't ask and the manual doesn't mention it then it's your fault for not checking first and you can't return it. So always ask and get a record of your enquiry ask the shop assistant to write it down, if buying online ask the retailer to e-mail or text you.
The Consumer Rights act 2015 also covers services and digital content, as well as contracts (such as for specified delivery times) for a more in-depth summary of the act and how it benefits you please visit