Many business websites breaching consumer protection law
Businesses are being urged to make sure their websites comply with consumer protection law ahead of the Christmas period.
The warning from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) comes after it carried out a review of 156 websites to check if any were in breach of the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs).
It found that 62 online retailers may not be in line with consumer protection law. For the most part, the websites did comply with the DSRs, but certain worrying trends emerged. Key areas of concern that the OFT raised with retailers include:
- 33% of sites that provided information on cancellation appeared to impose unreasonable restrictions on customers' rights to a refund. Most common was requiring that the product must be in the original packaging or in the original condition, which can infringe on consumers' rights to reasonably inspect/assess the product.
- 60% provided a web contact form rather than an email contact address, as required by the E-Commerce Regulations. Two per cent provided no electronic contact details at all.
- While 60% of sites indicated upfront that compulsory charges would be added to the first price shown, 24% of these sites went on to add further unexpected charges at the check-out.
Businesses risk action from the OFT or the Local Trading Standards Service if they don’t ensure their websites comply with regulations.
Cavendish Elithorn, Senior Director of the Goods and Consumer Group at OFT, said: “The OFT recognises that most businesses want to play fair with their customers and to comply with the law.
“We encourage all online retailers to check their websites so customers can be confident their rights are being respected when they shop online.”
Please contact Clare Jones if you would like any more information about consumer protection law.