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OFT tells online retailers to change websites

According to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), more than one third of the top online retailers in the UK could be breaking consumer laws.

It was suggested that 62 out of 156 popular websites may not be complying with consumer protection law.

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After finding unreasonable restrictions on refunds and compulsory charges being added at the online checkout, without prior warning, the OFT has asked the retailers to change their websites before Christmas.

After checking the websites of the 100 most-used online retailers and the most popular clothing sites, the regulator found one of the most common problems was retailers wrongly telling customers that returned goods must be in their original packaging or in their original condition, something the OFT explained may be in breach of a customer’s rights to inspect or assess a product.

Nearly two-thirds of all retailers checked failed to provide an email contact address, which is in breach of e-commerce regulations.

Of the 60 per cent of websites that notified buyers of compulsory charges, such as delivery, 24 per cent added extra, unprecedented charges as well – including card charges and booking and luggage fees.

Cavendish Elithorn, a senior director at the OFT, said: “The OFT recognises that most businesses want to play fair with their customers and to comply with the law.

“We encourage all online retailers to check their websites so customers can be confident their rights are being respected when they shop online.”

The companies found who may have been misleading users have been written to. Those who fail to comply and change their sites could be taken to court.

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