Home Shopping

Are you a secure home shopper?

When you buy goods by telephone, mail order, fax, over the Internet or through a television shopping channel, you have the same rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 as when buying from a shop.

You can diminish the security and privacy threat of shopping on the Internet by looking for companies that carry the admark or TrustUK logo, indicating that they follow a recognised code of good trading practice online.

The ‘admark’ icon on a website, e-mail, banner, popup or other online advertisement indicates that the corporation displaying it subscribes to the rule of the Committee of Advertising Practice, that advertising online should be ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.

Similarly, the TrustUK hallmark on a corporation’s website indicates that the company follows an accepted code of practice for fair trading, secure payment, privacy and protection of children during online shopping.

Secure Internet shopping

Follow these rules to reduce the likelihood of theft and other problems when you shop online:

  • Deal only with traders who have a business name, geographical address and landline phone number. Try to deal with well-established businesses with well-known names.

  • Look for a statement on the website indicating that the site is protected. This often takes the form of a secure site logo and a padlock system. If you cannot find one, do not deal with the company.

  • Print out the ‘Terms and Conditions’ on the company’s website and make sure what all security you have against tribulations that may occur.

  • If you buy from outside the European Union, you may have difficulty getting something done about undelivered, damaged or faulty goods (you may have less consumer protection, guarantees may be difficult to enforce, legal action against a foreign supplier may be expensive and difficult to pursue and electrical goods may be incompatible).

  • Check the delivery charges. If you buy outside the European Union, you may be liable for VAT, customs duty and other extra charges.

  • Never give out credit card niceties unless you are on a protected website; check the screen for a padlock system at the bottom of each page.

  • Print out and keep your order and its authentication in case of prospective disputes.

  • When you pay by credit card, check your statement instantaneously when it arrives and alert the credit card company at once of any incongruity.

  • Further, in order to minimise the opportunity for scam and theft, never send cash through the post, do not send details of your bank or credit card account by fax or e-mail, only give bank account and credit card details to companies that you know to be members of the Mail Order Trade Association (MOTA), The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) or TrustUK or other such associations.

Your Rights

First of all, the ordered goods must be delivered within 30 days unless you agree otherwise. For most goods, you should have a cooling-off period of seven working days from the date you receive the goods, during which you may cancel your order (in writing, by letter, fax or e-mail) and own nothing. Further, you should be given information on your right to cancel. If not, ‘cooling-off period’ is extended to three months, or seven days from when you do receive the information.

If in case you call off your order, the company must refund any money paid within 30 days. If you bought the goods under a credit agreement suggested or organised by the seller, this is automatically cancelled if you cancel your order.

Making Complaints

Check before ordering from mail-order, Internet or other distance-selling companies that the retailer is a member of one of the trade associations mentioned below.  If you have a difficulty, you can contact the trade association for help. Several offer negotiation services whose decisions are binding on their members.

If you have a complaint about mail-order traders you can contact the Mail Order Association (MOTA). Similarly, if it is about direct marketing (advertisements citing the company’s contact details, leaflets, inserts in magazines, catalogues and mailshots) please contact the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Internet traders can be dealt with by getting in touch with TrustUK or any other trade organisation to which a TrustUK web trader belongs.

Further, to complain about the contents of a company’s website you local trading standards office may be contacted. a bogus traders found through your Internet service provider can be reported to the Internet service provider.

The bodies that handle complaints about advertisements are Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS), Independent Television Commission (ITC), Radio Authority and Trading standards.

An Example

A long wait for mail-order goods

You have been waiting six weeks for a laptop ordered and paid for from a mail-order company. If you wish to cancel the contract and receive a refund, you can exercise your rights.

If you buy goods by mail order, by phone or through the Internet, they should be delivered within 30 days. If they do not arrive, you have the right to cancel the order and ask for a refund.

Write to the mail-order company, say that you have the right to cancel and ask for a refund.  If you paid by credit card, contact the credit card company and ask for advice. If you do not receive a refund, write to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and tell them that you have not received either the goods or a refund. The ASA will look into the affair and try to resolve it.  Inform you local standards office, who keeps records about company trading practices. You should also check whether the company belongs to the Mail Order Traders Association (MOTA). If so, you can ask the MOTA conciliation service to help to resolve the disputes.