Revealed: Your legal rights when shopping online

your legal rights shopping online uk

your legal rights shopping online ukNo refund period being offered? What! That’s complete nonsense! I hate hearing about Insider’s Edge readers getting ripped off online. Find out what refund period you’re automatically entitled to by law – and more…

Online shopping is still a relatively new phenomenon and a lot of us are still getting used to the idea of paying for things online and the myriad of benefits and complications that come with that.

The biggest grey area seems to be consumer rights. We know when we buy something in a physical shop we can take it back for a refund if it’s faulty or if it’s an unwanted gift, but when buying online a lot of us don’t know exactly where we stand.

And it’s not just consumers that are confused. Let me give you an example…

I’m genuinely amazed by the number of product creators who approach me asking me to review something… but then slip in the following little proviso – “just so you know there’s no refund period on this?”


“Yeah there’s no refund period”

A lot of product creators and writers don’t like the idea that someone could use their product… or somehow ‘steal’ their ideas and then send it back for a refund.  The truth is there will always be a minority of people who’ll try to blag free things with no intention of keeping them. But sooner or later it catches up with them (a number of vendors block serial refunders after a number of returns).

Refund periods are there for a reason. If you try something and it’s simply not right for you you should be entitled to a refund. If you buy a swish looking dressing gown in a shop, then get home, unwrap it and decide that actually in retrospect you don’t suit pink velour there must be an option for you to exchange it or get a refund.

The same goes for biz opp, trading or gambling products. There needs to be a ‘cooling off’ period. You can never really know if a system really suits your lifestyle or time scales – or indeed lives up to its promises – unless you try it.

Luckily the powers that be agree and that’s why there are certain rules in place to protect us when we shop online in the UK…

1. You are entitled, as a buyer, to at least 7 days ‘cooling off’ period when you buy a product online – This is not just a guideline, this is the law under the Distance Selling Regulations 2000. It means you have the right to cancel and return a product at any time within that 7 day period to receive a full refund.

2. When you’re given a refund it should also include the delivery costs – That’s not to be confused with the costs of returning the item for refund, which you may be liable for if stated in the terms and conditions by the seller. If the item arrived broken then it is always the seller, and not you, who is liable for the return costs.

3. As a buyer be aware that you’re responsible for making sure items are returned safely – If in doubt, and particularly if you’re returning a particularly high priced item, it can be an idea to return it by special delivery.

It’s good to bear these tips in mind when you’re online shopping, not just so that you know where you stand after you’ve made a purchase but to help you make an informed choice before you make a purchase.

If a seller is claiming that they won’t offer refunds under any circumstances then it shows that they’re running a pretty shoddy operation a) because they’re not complying with legal requirements and b) because they may be trying to hide something.

You can get more details here…

Distance Selling Regulations

(Although be warned it’s in pretty indecipherable legal speak).

A more wade-throughable version is provided as a PDF download by the OFT. You can download a copy here. Many thanks to Insider’s Edge reader Sandra for that tip.

Comments and thoughts welcome.


2 responses to “Revealed: Your legal rights when shopping online”

  1. Hi.
    It was good to read your article about your rights when returning items. Too many companies – both big and small – try to evade their statutory obligations and think that THEIR terms and conditions override the DSRs, when they can of course do no such thing, only enhance them.

    I would like to pick up on one point though. You say that the consumer is liable for the return costs unless otherwise stated by the seller. It is, in fact, the other way round. The seller must state you are liable for the return costs otherwise they have to pay for this, see 3.55 and 3.56 of the OFT’s guidelines.

    Please also see this link for the OFT’s guidelines, which I think are far more clearer than the link you gave.

    All in all though, a good subject to highlight and the more people aware of their rights the better!

    • Hi Sandra, thank you for your comment. It’s fantastic when the Insider’s Edge community rally to together with tips. Also many thanks for the clarification on the returning items. Have ammended the article to reflect this and added the link to the OFT guide.

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