Need Consumer Advice? Call Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or use the online reporting form . The service is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

The Citizens Advice consumer service [] website also has advice leaflets and template letters to help you make a complaint.

The Consumer Group - Which? also have a dedicated Consumer Rights website [] that provides help to consumers getting to know their consumer rights, the Regulations and Laws surrounding these, and how to take action if you have a problem. 

What we can't help you with 

We no longer give advice by telephone, e-mail or to personal callers. Instead our partners, the Citizens Advice consumer service offer free telephone advice or you can contact them online.

We cannot deal with civil issues, including disputes where both parties are consumers, or both are traders.

Your rights when buying goods

When you buy goods you are entering into a contract with the seller of these goods.

For goods bought on or after 1 October 2015 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 says goods bought in a shop must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.

If they are not then:

  • Up to 30 days – If the item is faulty, you can get a refund.
  • Up to 6 months – If the faulty item cannot be repaired or replaced, then you are entitled to a full refund in most cases.
  • Up to 6 years – If the item can be expected to last up to six years you may be entitled to a repair or replacement, or if that doesn’t work, some money back.

Remember, when buying in a shop you DON'T have a legal right to a refund or replacement just because you change your mind. But… some stores may offer something via their returns policy.

However, for goods or services bought at home, The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 does give you:

  • Up to 14 days after receiving the goods, the right to change your mind allowing you to cancel and get a full refund in most cases.

For the first time digital products and content are now included in legislation, so if the digital content you have bought is faulty, you are entitled to a repair or replacement.

If the fault cannot be fixed within a reasonable time, or without causing you significant inconvenience, you can get some, or all of your money back.

It’s important to remember the old laws – like the Sale of Goods Act – will still apply to contracts made before October 2015.

More information on your rights under the Consumer Rights Act including template complaint letters can be found on the ‘Which’ website who have a dedicated Consumer Rights webpage providing help and advice on how to take action to resolve everyday problems. []

Consumer Rights information can also be found on Citizens Advice consumer pages .

How to complain, standard letters and taking legal action

Although we offer an advice service for consumers, our powers are limited as to how much we can get involved in individual disputes. We cannot, for example, order a trader to give you your money back or close a shop down. 

Resolve the matter with the trader 

What we suggest is that you first try to resolve the matter with the trader. If talking to them doesn't work, put the details of your complaint in a letter to the trader. We suggest that you send your letter with proof of posting from the post office such as recorded delivery post and keep a copy of the letter you have sent. To help you word your letter, there are template letters on the Citizens Advice [] website.

If your letter fails to resolve the issue, there are a number of other steps you can take.

The first thing to find out is whether the trader is a member of an ombudsman scheme or trade association as they will often operate a Code of Practice for their members and may also be able to help you come to an agreement.

Resolution via a court 

You may need to take the trader to the County Court, which for claims under the value of £10,000 will be heard in the Small Claims Court []. Most hearings take place in a meeting room, and most people represent themselves rather than using a lawyer.

Before spending money on court fees though, think about:  

  • the Small Claims Court will not enforce the judgments they make. So whilst you may win, you may have to spend extra money (such as on bailiffs) to enforce the judgment, and even with bailiffs there is no guarantee of success. 
  • You will need to know the permanent address of the trader to make sure they receive the court document and to enable you to enforce the judgment if needs be.  
  • It may be wise to check if the trader you are considering taking to court already has outstanding Court Judgments before making your claim. You can check this on the Trust Online [] website for a small fee. If the trader already has judgments against him and has not done what the court has ordered, it may not be worth you spending further money on going to court.
  • If the business is a limited company you may wish to check with Companies House [] to see if they are still trading.

You can find further information on how to resolve your dispute by reading CAB's Advice Guide [] or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

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 [].

Problems with items bought in the European Union

If you happen to be in a dispute with a trader in a different country, but still in the European Union, the UK ECC [] may be able to help with support and in contacting the trader for you.

Home repairs and improvements

Having home improvement work done in your home can be a stressful, costly business, especially if it all goes wrong. Follow the Citizens Advice Guide's top tips to help avoid some of the pitfalls [].

Unsolicited text message or marketing call

If you have received an unwanted text message or marketing call but don't know who it was from please let the Information Commissioner know [].

Consumer safety

19 May 2021 - Product Safety Alert 1 - Small, High-Powered Magnetic Products - The Office for Product Safety and Standards has undertaken an investigation into small high-powered magnets in products where they can easily be swallowed and which may appeal to small children and can pose a general safety risk to consumers. Consumers, local authority trading standards services and businesses are asked to be alert to the potential dangers of accessible small magnets in products and take action, where appropriate.More information about product safety alerts [].

In general, Business Compliance carry out inspections, investigate complaints, take samples and give limited advice to businesses.

There are dozens of laws about product safety so only the most common ones are listed here. For more information go to the Business Companion website [] and use the search facility at the top of the page on this website which also contains information on the changes in legislation for consumer products following the EU Exit.

  • Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
  • Toys (Safety) Regulations 1995.
  • Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
  • Plugs and Sockets Etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994.
  • Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1995.
  • Bunk Beds (Entrapment Hazard) (Safety) Regulations 1987.
  • Cosmetic Product (Safety) Regulations 2008.

General product safety regulations 2005 [] cover consumer product safety in the UK. As well as making sure products are safe, they place certain responsibilities on producers (those who manufacture or import) and distributors (others in the supply chain such as wholesalers and retailers).

Checklist to help guide you through buying a second hand car

  • Is it safe?
  • Is it legal?
  • Is it what you want

Make a few simple checks before you buy or you might regret it later and look at our 15 point checklist [#checklist] before buying a second hand car.

More information from Citizens Advice Bureau. []

Budget carefully

Get insurance quotes and check car tax rates before signing on the bottom line. Remember to add the cost of any work that might be needed.

If you're going to borrow money to buy the car get loan quotes before you view any cars. That way you'll know what you can afford and will be able to tell whether any finance offered is good value or not.

Do your homework

Check price guides and compare similar cars in the classifieds so you know as much as you can about the value of different cars to avoid being overcharged.

Websites like Honest John [] and discussion sites on makes of cars can be a useful source of information on 'common' faults and 'what to look for' tips, but remember that those who've had a poor experience are likely to be more outspoken than satisfied customers.

Don't view a car in the rain, in poor light or at night

You won't be able to check the condition of the car properly if it's wet - water hides scratches, dents and other problems. Make sure you can see the vehicle clearly and from all angles.

Ask about service history

Most cars need work at some stage so there is often garage bills for work or parts as well as previous MOT certificates, and records of regular servicing that should be available.

  • If there's no history then ask why?
  • Does it look like there might be a regular fault that still may not have been fixed?
  • Does the history tell a full and believable story?

V5C registration document

Insist on seeing the V5C vehicle registration document - this shows the registered keeper and not the legal owner.

Is the present keeper the person selling you the car?  If not, then unless they are a dealer why are they selling the car for someone else?

The V5C gives details of previous keepers too. Consider contacting them to find out more about when they owned the car, what work was done and how many miles they covered?

Previous keepers have no vested interest so you should be able to rely on their comments.

  • Did they service the car regularly?
  • Did they do much mileage?
  • Did they have any major servicing work done to it?
  • Did they alter the vehicle in any way?


If the car is three years old or more make sure there's a continuous series of annual MOT 'certificates'.

If you know the vehicle's registration number and the document reference on the V5C check online a vehicle's MOT status and history (back to 2005).

You can also contact the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency's (VOSA's) MOT status line on 0870 330 0444.

Recorded mileage should increase steadily with age and be consistent with the service record. If it doesn't then you'll want to hear a good explanation as to why not.

Buyer beware

Be wary of anything that seems like a real bargain, or has a very low mileage for its age. There are bargains to be had but in general, if a deal looks too good to be true then it most likely is.

If you know what you're doing then use the AA DIY inspection checklist [] to help make sure you look the car over thoroughly.

Failing that and to help you avoid making a mistake, get an AA Car Data Check and consider getting the car looked over by AA Vehicle Inspections.

Other things to look out for:

Cam belt

As well as regular (usually annual) servicing there are major items like brake fluid, antifreeze or cam belt renewal that car manufacturers say should be done at a certain age or mileage.

If a cam belt breaks the resulting damage is likely to run into several thousand pounds and often a new engine is the most economical option.

Some engines have a chain instead of a belt which normally last the life of the vehicle but if your car does have a belt you must make sure it's replaced when due.

If a belt change was due but there is no evidence to confirm it has been, be warned that you might need to get this done as soon as possible for peace of mind.


Make sure the car has a handbook as they can be expensive to replace if not.

Look how the security system works and check that it does. Find out what keys were provided when the car was new. Modern car keys can cost £100+ to replace so if you need more than one key and there's only one available you'll need to bear that cost in mind.

Coloured 'master' keys provided by some manufacturers to programme new spare keys for the car are even more expensive to replace.

There's no legal requirement but cars are generally sold new with at least one spare key.  If there's not a spare now ask why not.

Test drive

Insist on a test drive - this is your only opportunity to check the car's general mechanical condition and to find out for sure that it meets all your needs:

  • Is the driving position comfortable?
  • Can you reach/operate all the controls easily?
  • Do the child seats fit?
  • Does the golf bag or pushchair fit in the boot?

A test drive should be more than just a short drive around the block. You will want to go through all the gears, including reverse and drive throughout the legal speed limits.

Look carefully

Misaligned panels or mismatched colours on doors, bonnet and tailgate can show that the car has been repaired after a bump.  Traces of spray paint on door handles, window seals and mouldings can too.

If the engine bay looks like it has recently been power-washed clean the owner could be trying to remove evidence of fluid leaks. A check under the bonnet after a lengthy test drive should reveal any problems.

Seats and carpets

Seats and carpets can always be cleaned, or even replaced, but stains on internal fabric head-linings are impossible to remove completely.

If seat covers have been fitted, check underneath them for signs of damage.  You can get seats replaced but this can be very expensive, particularly if they contain electric motors or airbags.

Locking wheel nuts

Adaptors for locking wheel nuts have a habit of going missing. If locking wheel nuts are fitted, check that the special adaptor is included with the toolkit and that it fits the nuts.

Don't be pressured into buying

There are always other vehicles out there so if this one doesn't feel right in any way it's time to walk away.

Be wary of and don't be swayed by 'sob stories'  like change of job, break-up of relationship, moving aboard, new baby on the way and so on.  The bottom line is that you're buying a car to help yourself, not anyone else.

Before you hand over any money

  • Agree collection/delivery arrangements.
  • Confirm exactly what's included in the price.
  • Confirm any work that the seller has agreed to do.
  • Make sure you get a receipt showing vehicle details, price, terms of sale and the seller's details.
  • Don't agree to do a deal in a car park or similar location.

If buying from a trader and on finance, check the credit agreement carefully. Don't sign it if the figures don't match what you have been told or reflect truly the amount of any deposits or part exchanges given.

You are also allowed to ask for a draft copy of the Consumer Credit Agreement before you agree to buy. It is a legal requirement for this to be provided so that you can take it away with you to allow you to compare the agreement with other finance options that may be available to you, such as a bank loan. If your request is refused, WALK AWAY from the deal.

Don't be pressurised to sign anything on the day unless you are completely satisfied with everything.

Checklist to help guide you through buying a second hand car

  1. Look at car adverts in your local paper and online to research the make and model which will best suit your needs.
  2. Look online to check car value guide prices and work out if you can afford the insurance and tax.
  3. Before seeing the vehicle ask the seller for the registration number, make and model and MOT test number. Use the DVLA's online vehicle enquiry service [] to check that the details you are given match their records. Also use the MOT checking service [] to ensure the MOT is up to date and the MOT history matches up.
  4. View the car in daylight [so you can clearly see dents and scratches]
  5. Inspect the vehicle, looking for rust and corrosion or faulty and unsafe tyres. Ideally carry this out with a family member or friend who has more experience with buying a car.
  6. Consider who you re purchasing the vehicle from. Buying from a dealer may be more expensive, but you will have more rights than if you purchase from a private individual or at auction
  7. Take the vehicle for a test drive.
  8. Ask to look at the vehicle alone without the pressure of a trader or seller distracting you from being able to fully examine the vehicle.
  9. Check the details on all relevant paperwork to ensure they relate to the vehicle you are viewing. Does the V5c form have the same number as the chassis number of VIN [vehicle identification number]?
  10. Check the service history. Is the service record up to date.
  11. Check the mileage. Is it high or low? [An average of 10,000 to 12,000 miles a year] Is the mileage on the car the same as on the MOT and service records? Does the condition of the car reflect the mileage? Check any faults found at MOT or advisory notes made?
  12. Check on Hpi or Experian sites [this is chargeable] to ensure that the vehicle has not been stolen, involved in a serious accident or written off or has outstanding finance?
  13. Make sure any warranty or payment protection meets your needs and you understand any exclusions.
  14. Make sure you fully understand the conditions of the sale. Have you read the contract carefully before signing?
  15. Ask for a receipt with the seller's name and address on it.

Buying a cat or dog guidelines

Follow these guidelines to make sure you help combat the illegal trade in pet animals. If you plan to buy a cat or dog:

Government advice about buying a cat or dog [].

Buying a puppy or a kitten

If you plan to buy a puppy or kitten:

Raising concerns

Contact  the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or use their online reporting form  if you are concerned:

  • about the health or welfare of dogs and cats advertised for sale
  • you may have bought an illegally imported pet

Copycat websites

We have had lots of questions about copycat websites which charge extra for items like passport renewals, driving licences, European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), driving test appointments, car tax and foreign travel visas.

People contact us when they find out they have paid more than they would have on the official website and they feel they have been conned or misled.

In July 2014 the National Trading Standards eCrime executed four search warrants at properties in England and arrested five people connected to over 25 websites [].

What are copycat websites?

If you search online for a service like applying for a passport or booking a driving theory test, along with the sites for the official providers of these services, such as the Home Office or the Driving Standards Agency, there are a number of other online companies which will offer to 'help' you with services such as these.

These other copycat sites often have a similar look and wording to the official sites but will add an extra charge on top of the usual price for their help.

What is the problem with copycat sites?

Copycat sites will charge a fee for services that would have been cheaper or even free on the official site.

Examples we have seen include copycat sites charging £15 to apply for an EHIC card which can be done free of charge through the official NHS website and £85 for the ESTA to enter the USA which should only cost $14.

Are copycat sites illegal?

The majority of these companies are legitimate and it's not against the law for a company to offer a service similar to an official organisation.

How do people end up using the 'copycat site' instead of the official site?

People often get confused because the copycat sites can be unclear whether they're an official service or not. Work is underway to make sure that people are not misled.

What can be done about copycat sites?

It's not acceptable for companies to mislead people into paying for products or services. Copycat sites should not give the impression that they're an official service or that they're linked with one if that's not the case, and that could be through the claims made on their website, the company name, website address, the use of specific words such as 'official / Gov', or the overall appearance of the site.

Costs should be clear, transparent and upfront - so for example, if they are charging a compulsory handling fee they should make that clear.

How can I avoid copycat sites?

When applying online for these types of items remember: 

  • All official sites can be reached through []. Use this link rather than using an online search engine .
  • Make sure you know who you are dealing with - take time to read the information on the website to make sure that you're using the official service.  
  • If you do use a search engine don't just pick the first result on the page.

What can I do if I think I've been caught out by a copycat site?

If you think you have used a copycat site and feel you were misled you can get further advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service by using their online reporting form or by calling 0808 223 1133.

What are the official sites for these types of services online?

Here are some of the most useful official websites and current charges: 

Hoverboards / self-balancing scooters advice

Thinking about going back to the future and buying a hoverboard? There are a few things to consider:

  • Always buy from reputable sources and stores.
  • The plug must be a three pin UK plug.
  • The plug must have a fuse.
  • You must be given information about the importer and/or manufacturer including an address.
  • Instructions must be in English
  • Advice about safe use must be included (for example who is the intended user - age or weight).
  • Don’t charge your product either overnight or if you are going out - some boards have been found that did not have a charging cut off.
  • Does the item have a CE mark – be wary as these can sometimes be faked. One way to spot fraudulent CE markings is to check the logo. Sometimes the wrong logo is used entirely, but if it looks correct, check the middle line of the ‘E’, as it should be shorter than the other parts.
  • You can’t use the device on public roads or pavements – only on private land with the landowner’s permission.

If you have bought a hoverboard or something similar, or if you have an electrical device that you suspect may be unsafe, our advice is to stop using it immediately, do not charge the product and report it to: Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.

Avoiding Hajj fraud

Every year millions of Muslims from around the world make the journey to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage or Hajj.

What is Hajj?

Hajj is considered one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to make the pilgrimage once in a lifetime, if they are physically and financially able to make the journey to Mecca.

When is Hajj?

Hajj is expected to fall between September 9-14, 2016. The exact dates of Islamic holidays cannot be determined in advance, due to the nature of the Islamic lunar calendar.

Understanding the fraud

Tens of thousands of British Muslims will have booked trips to Saudi Arabia in October to make the pilgrimage to the Mecca and celebrate Hajj. They  spend as much as £125 million on pilgrimages. However, in the coming weeks some of them may unfortunately find out that their trips have either been soured by sub-standard hotels and travel arrangements or completely destroyed by criminals selling scam Hajj packages for non-existent flights, accommodation and visas. The fraudsters pose as legitimate travel operators who offer discounts of up to 50% off the usual price to make pilgrimages to Mecca. Some people may find out their tour bookings were never made and the fraudsters have stolen their money, leaving them stuck in the UK or stranded in Saudi Arabia. The Council of British Hajjis [] estimate that only 3% of victims report the fraud.

City of London Police report victims of fraud lose between £1000 up to £33,000. The City of London Police [] and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, a police unit overseen by the City of London Police, set up in 2010 to combat fraud, are working with the Muslim community and the travel industry to raise awareness of Hajj fraud and to encourage victims of this crime to report it.

How to protect yourself from Hajj fraudsters?

The UK authorities are concerned about the number of fraudulent packages on sale. It is believed that hundreds have fallen victim - don't be one of them. The City of London Police, who are the national police lead for fraud, along with Action Fraud, have launched a campaign to raise awareness to keep people from falling prey to scammers as they look for the best deals to take them to Saudi Arabia later this year. There are a number of things you can do to avoid falling victim to Hajj fraud:

  • Make sure your travel agent/tour operator is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) protected
  • Check that your travel agent/tour operator is accredited by the Saudi Embassy
  • Check exactly what you are paying for
  • Get everything in writing.

To report a fraud, call Action Fraud [] on 0300 123 2040 (textphone 0300 123 2050) or use their online fraud reporting tool [].  

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, please call Citizens Advice consumer service [] helpline on 0808 223 1133 or call your local Police.