Online marketplaces offer bargains from the comfort of your home, but your rights are different depending on where you buy. Should you proceed with caution?
Rather than braving the rain and the crowds, I’ll be looking for gifts, baubles and this year’s Christmas jumper online. It’s not just me – last December for every £5 Brits spent shopping, £1 was spent online.
But in the rush to find the right gifts at the best prices, it’s easy to forget that online marketplaces, such as Amazon Marketplace, Wish and Facebook Marketplace, should be treated with caution.
This year for example, we found eight ‘slimes’ (basically packaged goo that children seem to love) for sale from sellers on Amazon Marketplace that failed to meet safety standards. After our report, Amazon removed them from sale.
You have to be careful too about different types of sellers on marketplaces. Buy from an established retailer and you’re protected by the Consumer Rights Act. Buy from a private individual and they don’t have to disclose faults so it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’.
A woman contacted our Consumer Rights team to say she had bought Converse trainers secondhand on Facebook Marketplace.
She made a bank transfer for £35 but the trainers that arrived were obviously fakes. She complained to Facebook, but the seller had already disappeared from the site and she lost her money – when buying from a marketplace, your contract is usually with the seller, not the website.
It can be tricky to tell where you’re buying from. Seeing ‘co.uk’ in a URL may reassure you that items will be delivered from the UK, but often goods are still shipped from China, so you risk presents not arriving in time.
Buying internationally can also make it harder to sort out problems that may arise. When you buy from a retailer that is not actively marketing to the UK or EU, your rights will usually be different, so check the small print.
If you’re ordering from EU retailers, you’re protected as if you bought them in the UK. We’re fighting to make sure you get the same choice of high-quality, safe products after Brexit.
So this Christmas if you’re buying gifts, take the time you saved by not heading to the shops to double check what you’re buying. Read reviews carefully, get clued up on your rights and consider where your goods are coming from.
This contribution to Which? Conversation first appeared in the December 2018 edition of Which? Magazine (page 15: ‘Inside view’).
Are you a regular user of online marketplaces? Have you experienced any issues with them? Let us know.