Why is it so hard for online shops to understand the simple rules there to protect consumers? Online T&Cs to catch up with the times and play by the rules.
We’ve checked 83 sets of online terms and conditions (T&Cs) this month, not a painless process, believe me. BHS, Cargo, Habitat and Peacocks were among the quarter with online T&Cs that broke the rules!
The good news is that, after contacting them, many of those we caught breaking key consumer protection rules have now pledged to change their terms. But really, we shouldn’t have to be the ones policing this – it’s hardly difficult for them to follow.
The Distance Selling Regulations: a shopper’s friend
When I started shopping online it was a revelation for me – but the obvious problem is that you can’t physically see what you’re ordering. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve ordered clothes that I think will make me look like a goddess, only to find that it’s a godsend no-one gets to see me in them. Cue a trip to the post office to send them back.
Lucky for me, consumers have more rights shopping online than we do on the high street. Snappily called the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs), these rules mean you can:
- Tell a shop you’d like to cancel your order anytime from placing it up to seven working days from the day after you receive it.
- Expect a refund of the original postage charge if you cancel within this time.
- Expect a free returns service unless you’re explicitly told by the shop in their terms that they expect you to pay.
But I’ve checked numerous online shops’ T&Cs over the past two years, and when pitted against the DSRs, many make for an alarmingly easy game of ‘spot the difference’.
Shops pledge to change
Since Which? has begun checking online shops back in 2008, 22 have changed their terms to comply. And it looks like more are set to follow, since most shops breaking the DSRs in this latest round of checks have pledged to change their T&Cs.
It’s great that they acted quickly, but this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. These rules are there for the protection of their customers, not for being ignored or sidelined.
Even the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has finally taken notice. It’s pledging to ensure consumers are ‘educated’ about their rights and wants to improve the regulation and enforcement of online shops. Great news – shame it’s what we’ve been calling for them to do since the beginning of the year!
We’ll be submitting all our evidence as well as continuing checks to make sure shops stop getting away with this. So, here’s a warning to all those shops still flouting the rules: we’re not letting this go.