OFT warns of legal action against online retailers failing to protect consumers

Consumer protection

The UK Office Of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced that more than 62 of the 156 leading online retailers may not be fully complying with consumer protection law, which might result in legal action against them if changes are not made.

In partnership with research firm BDRC Continental the OFT conducted a survey of online retailers, including pure-play retailers as well as multi-channel ones. The results suggest that many companies are adding extra fees to displayed prices. While 60% of websites indicated upfront that extra charges would have to be met prior to purchase, one quarter of these also added further ´unexpected´ costs. In addition, 60% of online retailers only allowed consumers to contact them via a web contact form, not through an e-mail address. A further 2% made no electronic contact details available, the OFT says.

The OFT also found that one in three of the surveyed e-tailers were providing information about cancellations which seemed to impose ´unreasonable restrictions´ on customers´ rights to a refund, which is against the law. The biggest concern for the OFT was that retailers typically required consumers to return the goods without having damaged the original packaging, which could prevent them from properly assessing the product.

Source: M2 Bespoke News

Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the goods and consumer group at the OFT, comments that retailers should review their websites and the information provided there to ensure that all requirements for consumer protection are met.

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