Buying online

Shopping on the internet

Please note - The law governing buying on the Internet or by distance selling changed on 13 June 2014, but the old laws still apply to sales made before that date.

The key points are:

  • Consumer cancellation rights for contracts made at a distance will be extended from 7 to 14 days.
    • Services started within the cancellation period will be able to be cancelled, but consumers will have to pay for what they have received.
    • If consumers have not been made aware of their rights then they may have up to a year to cancel, and any refunds due should be made within 14 days. 
  • Traders selling at a distance - not face to face - can withhold a refund where the goods have not been returned. They will also be able to deduct money from a refund where an item appears to have been used.
  • Specific 'hidden cost' practices will be banned, such as excessive surcharges for payment methods, pre-ticked boxes if payments are to be made, and a 'basic rate' phone number should be provided for customers complaining or exercising their rights.
  • All linked contracts will be cancelled when the main contract is cancelled - such as a warranty or credit agreement.

For contracts made before 13 June the following applies:

With the increased use of the internet, shopping is becoming a truly global experience with more and more consumers turning to their computers to buy their goods and services. Distance selling is selling and buying goods or services without face to face contact.

Your rights when buying over the internet are the same as when you buy goods from the high street.  However, you may also have additional rights under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (referred to as the distance selling regulations). These include the right to:

  • clear information before you decide to buy, including the name of the seller and the price of the goods, including any 'extras' like VAT or delivery charge. If you pay any money before the goods are delivered, the seller must also give you their full postal address. This information must be written and can be in a letter, fax, e-mail or on the website.
  • cancel your order at any time up to seven working days after you received the goods and get your money back. You may have to pay for the return of the goods though. You cannot cancel if the goods were made to order, perishable, newspapers or unsealed audio or video recordings.
  • have the goods delivered within 30 days of order unless you and the seller have agreed otherwise. If the seller later realises they cannot deliver within this time they must tell you and give you the option of cancelling and getting a full refund
  • protection from fraud if you pay by a credit, debit or store card. If someone makes fraudulent use of your card you can cancel the payment and the card issuer must refund all money to your account.

These rights do not apply to financial services, timeshare agreements, accommodation, catering or leisure services or food and drink from a delivery service.

If the goods don't arrive by the agreed date or the 30 days you have the right to cancel the order and get your money back or ask for a replacement.

Solving your problem

If you receive faulty goods you've purchased online and wish to return them, you have the same rights under the Sale of Goods Act as you would when buying face to face.

Stop using the goods and contact the seller. Make notes of all phone calls made, follow up calls with letters and be clear what you want, a refund, replacement or repair. Always return goods by recorded delivery and get proof of postage.

Safety online

A number of businesses and individuals are victims of cybercrime every year; banks, for example, pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds covering credit card losses and fraud.  This needn't be the case and following some simple precautions as outlined on the Get Safe Online website should give you the information you need to avoid costly and expensive problems.

Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading source of unbiased, factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety.

More information is available on the Get Safe Online website.