Online shopping can be fun. Browsing the web for the item you want and having it turn up to your doors in a few days has a certain buzz to it. However, we are all too familiar with tales about how people have been ripped off by some unscrupulous buyer or have mysterious charges appearing on their credit card. Follow these tips to keep yourself safe when buying online
Tip 1: Know your rights
The UK has many rules and laws that protect consumers from being unfairly ripped off by retailers.
Returning items that are not faulty
In the UK, under the Consumer Rights Act, if the item was bought online, over the phone, or by mail order, you have 14 calendar days after receiving the item to return it back to the seller for a full refund. You get a further 14 days after you make the notice to actually send the item back to the seller.
The item doesn’t even need to be faulty. You can change your mind at any time and you have the right to return the item up to 14 days after you received the item. So don’t be duped by the online retailer.
Depending on the retailer, you may have to send the item back at your own cost but you have to be refunded the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place. If you have opted for an enhanced delivery to get the goods faster to you, such as next day delivery, the seller only has to legally refund you the delivery cost of the basic delivery option. If you purchased using PayPal you will be able to claim return postage. See https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/refunded-returns for more details. However, the seller is not legally permitted to charge any stocking charges or withhold the delivery cost you paid.
There are exceptions to the 14 days return policy, however. Returns of DVDs, music, and computer software may be refused by many retailers if the seal or packaging has been broken. In addition, you can’t return perishable items or items made to order i.e. that has been personalized by the seller. Despite these exceptions, it never hurts to complain to the retailer if you’re not happy with the item you received. More often than not, the retailers will often work with you to come up with a satisfiable solution.
Returning faulty items
If the item is faulty, you will have 30 days after you received the item to return it for a full refund. For faulty items, sellers are legally obligated to provide return postage. If the seller refuses or stops responding, consider filing a chargeback using your credit card or debit card company. Please see https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/visa-mastercard-chargeback/ for full details about chargebacks.
In addition, if you bought the item using PayPal, file "an item not received as described (INAD)" case with them. PayPal gives you 90 days after purchase to open up the case. And don’t take no for an answer. If the seller continues to refuse, escalate the case and typically PayPal will side with the consumer and allow the item to be returned. With PayPal, you will have to return the postage at your own cost and claim it back from PayPal. See https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/refunded-returns.
Private sellers are exempt from the consumer law, but if you’re buying from eBay, you will be protected by eBay’s money-back guarantee which states that the received item significantly different than what is described can be returned back to the seller for a refund. You have 30 days after you received the item to do that. With eBay, the seller has to provide return postage for faulty items, so if the seller refuses to do so, escalate the case to eBay. See https://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/buy/return-item.html#process for more details.
Tip 2: Purchase using PayPal or other third-party payment websites like Amazon Pay
When purchasing items online, consider paying through PayPal for enhanced protection. All items bought through PayPal is protected by PayPal’s buyer protection. This protection is independent of any policy said by the retailer.
I once bought a laptop from Newegg. The laptop developed a fault 2 months after I had purchased it. I contacted Newegg first for the return but they refused, saying that they only protect items from the Newegg marketplace for only 30 days. The manufacturer also refused since the item is a US imported product. Therefore, I raised a case with PayPal. I had to escalate the case to PayPal, and PayPal sided with me and allowed the item to be returned back to Newegg. I got a full refund for the laptop.
Another benefit of paying through PayPal or Amazon Pay is that the retailer will not get the details of your credit card.
Tip 3: Look closely at the item description and title
Unscrupulous buyers sometimes try to trick customers by selling the item’s empty box or a photograph of the item. According to the Dailymail, one buyer was scammed out of £450 from a posting that says "XBox One Fifa Day One Edition, Photo Brand New UK 2012.” He had received a refund for the item, but it’s a bit time consuming to go through eBay’s resolution process to get the money back.
The trader has to refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place, so if you opted for enhanced service eg guaranteed next day, it only has to refund the basic cost.
Tip 4: If the price too low, it's probably too good to be true
If items are being sold at a significant reduction it is often an indication that the item might be a counterfeit or something is wrong with the item.
In summary, when purchasing online, make sure to know your rights and try to purchase through a trusted payment website like PayPal. In addition, look closely at item descriptions and item prices. If the items are priced too low, they are often too good to be true.
If you keep these four things in mind, you will reduce the chance of being ripped off by purchasing online.