With all the financial pressures last year, I agreed with family that we would only exchange token presents on Christmas Day and that we would look to buy additional gifts online in the January sales when we hope to get some bargains. What should shoppers look out for?
This is an excellent way to make your budget go further. However, it is important that you are aware of your online shopping rights and stick to your budget.
We have seen the number of people coming to our consumer service about online shopping nearly double, when compared to the same period in 2019. Our Consumer expert shares her top tips to help consumers stay safe online:
1.If you change your mind about a purchase If you buy online, unless it’s bespoke, made to measure, or you’ve broken a digital or hygiene seal, by law you will get an automatic 14-day cooling off period. This starts the day after you receive your order, and there doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.
If you buy something in person, shops aren’t legally required to accept returns for unwanted goods. Despite this, the shop may choose to have its own returns policy. If it does, they must honour it, so it’s worth checking your receipt.
2.If you’re worried your purchase is faulty If something’s gone wrong with an item you’ve bought, you may be entitled to a refund. You’ll have legal rights if you unwittingly bought an item that is broken or damaged, unusable, not what was advertised or doesn’t match the seller’s description.
You’ll have to move quickly, as you only have 30 days to return something that's faulty with the guarantee of getting your money back. Your rights don’t end after 30 days, though after this period the retailer doesn’t necessarily have to refund you, instead they have the option of repairing or replacing the faulty product.
3.If you’re worried about scams - Be careful not to end up with a counterfeit item. Secure websites should start “https” and have a padlock symbol in the taskbar. Be wary of spelling or grammar mistakes, and companies that don’t provide an address.
Also seek out reviews of the seller from other buyers as these can help you decide whether or not you trust the seller. If there is a lot of negative feedback from other people, it’s often a sign that something’s not right.
If you’re worried that something you’ve seen online might be a scam, you can get help from the Citizens Advice Scams Action service.
4.If there’s a problem with your delivery With more people buying online, more people are experiencing delivery problems. Just under half (47%) of UK adults have had a parcel delivery problem since the first lockdown in March.
If you bought something to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you. If the seller used a delivery company, they should chase the company to find out what’s happened to your order - it’s not your responsibility.
Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact them and ask where your order is. Be careful in selecting safe places; if you nominate a safe place and the parcel is stolen you might have lost the right to a replacement.
5.Keeping within your budget: It’s important that anyone thinking about turning to credit or taking out a loan to help pay for purchases understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back.
If you are struggling with your finances, it is important to do something about it as soon as possible. You can get free debt and money advice from Citizens Advice to find a way forward and avoid spiralling debts.
Further information and advice is available at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk