A quarter of all Ecommerce Shops Break UK Law According to Research by Internet Watchdog.
UK Research by SafeBuy has highlighted huge discrepancies in online retailing, with massive numbers of Ecommerce stores ignoring the law. According to SafeBuy’s research, a shocking one quarter (25 per cent) of Ecommerce Websites surveyed were found to be committing breaches of legal requirements for online trading.
The research reviewed SME websites at random (who were not accredited by SafeBuy), and found 75 breaches of basic legal requirements for retailing on the web.
Richard Jones, Founder of SafeBuy stated, “there are an estimated 65,000 UK online retailing sites and what this could mean is that some 16,250 of those websites are not complying with the law.”
Internet retailers are required to display a proper geographic address, a contact phone number and an email address, as well as having a legally-compliant goods returns policy.
6% did not provide a geographic address where they conduct their business from. However this is a legal requirement.
20% did not publish a contact e-mail address. A ‘contact us form’ is not an alternative. On this matter the law is unequivocal, stating: ‘… the details of the service provider, including his electronic mail address, which makes it possible to contact him rapidly… must be displayed’. Contact us forms do not normally provide anything more than a small, scrolling box for typing with no retained evidence together of date, time and text sent, as an email would provide, let alone any file attachments such as photos of faulty goods.
7% did not advise the customer before paying that they have a legal “right of return” if they change their mind for 14 days after receiving the goods. A number of the websites surveyed appear to attempt to even prevent consumers from being aware of their legal rights. Some went to great lengths to prevent consumers exercising their legal right of return.
SafeBuy uncovered examples such as:
‘We will use our discretion in deciding whether to accept a return.’
‘If you open the packaging you can’t return the products.’
“If you’ve tested the product… you’ll have to pay us a fee.’
‘Returns must be in perfect condition.’
Richard Jones of SafeBuy stated: “Some of these appear to rule out sending back any faulty or damaged-in-transit goods. These statements are most clearly illegal. SafeBuy’s view is consumers in general do not know the ins and outs of the law, but SME online retailers certainly should.”
There is extensive legislation over and above the Sale of Goods Act included in the Distance Selling Regulations, the E-Commerce Regulations and the Privacy in Electronic Communications Acts.
Richard Jones, added: “The situation is outrageous. We knew that there were dodgy traders out there but this number of online retailers breaching the law is patently unacceptable. What we need is ‘People Power’ based on consumers’ very basic knowledge of their rights.”
People Power needed!
SafeBuy aims to make a web shopping as safe as possible for consumers and so havecreated both consumer and retailer checklists which are available in full from the SafeBuy website.
What consumers should do
Jones’ recommendation is two-fold. Use the SafeBuy checklist to validate any website not well-known to you and be prepared to challenge the retailer if you are not happy with the way you are being treated.
There is further legislation in the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations which prevents the retailer from trying to exploit the consumer in any way which other laws do not already specifically prohibit.
To help consumers SafeBuy have published a free quick 5-point checklist for consumers available at http://care.safebuy.org.uk
What retailers should do
Ecommerce websites need to comply with the law. Those who want to be sure they comply with the law should contact SafeBuy and go through the accreditation process in full however SafeBuy also offer a FREE comprehensive free 8-point checklist for retailers with loads more information to help them in both legal and marketing terms.
The checklist is also available from http://care.safebuy.org.uk