Online Shopping? Your Guide to Online Returns

The global pandemic and yet another UK lockdown have seen a huge boom in online shopping and it’s likely we will be shopping from the comfort of our homes for the foreseeable future. With high street retailers closed again and so many great offers and sales online, we’ve put together this handy blog to help guide you through returning online goods. 

What the law says …

COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways, especially the way that we shop. From Amazon to Etsy and all the high street retailers we love, for most of us online shopping is a smooth, hassle-free experience, but what if things go wrong? 

When you buy goods from a trader online, the goods must be of acceptable quality and last for a reasonable length of time. This means ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘as they were described’. When online shopping in the UK your purchase is covered by the Consumer Rights Act for 2015, which covers how you should be treated by the seller when you purchase their products and/or services. The act also covers returns, refunds and defective goods. Consumers are also covered by the Consumer Contacts Regulations 2013.  

Know your shopping rights … 

  • If there is an issue with the item you purchased you could be entitled to a refund, a replacement or for the item to be fixed. 
  • There is a legal right to a refund within 30 days of receiving goods if the goods are faulty. These rights stand, regardless of what the store’s policy may state. 
    • You can claim a refund up to six months from the purchase if the goods can’t be fixed or swapped. 
    • Additionally, you usually will have up to 14 days after delivery of the goods to change your mind and get your money back. However, some goods may be excluded such as software, DVDs or CDs if the seal has been broken.  

**It’s important to note that a lot of retailers have introduced an ‘extended returns period’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When purchasing goods make sure you check the refunds section before hitting the buy now button. 

Amazon purchases

Well known as the ‘go to’ shopping platform for many, Amazon can seem overwhelming when trying to get help with an issue or make a complaint. It’s important to note that the rights mentioned should apply when buying from Amazon, however there could be some exceptions (such as personalised or perishable goods), so it’s always wise to double check before you buy the item. Specific information on how to return an ordered item or a gift bought on Amazon.co.uk can be found here.  

Issue not resolved?  BogusBuster has handy information on how to deal with different scenarios that could arise when shopping on Amazon. Check out the tips here.  

eBay, Etsy and other online shopping sites 

Online shopping sites like eBay and Etsy sell a mixture of new and used goods so it’s always important to carefully check the returns policy before buying. If buying a new item, you should be covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 rights we have mentioned, however if purchasing a ‘Brand New Item in Box’ such as an unwanted gift your rights may not stand. Many sellers may have an individual returns policy, for example, the buyer might have to pay for return postage, so ensure you check the fine print. Additionally, the seller could also be overseas so this can add many practical barriers to returning an item. On these sites there are many ‘made to order items’ such as personalised goods and consumable items which again may have restricted returns. BogusBuster has a wealth of information to help you navigate your way around resolving issues on EtsyeBay and other sites.  

Returning goods from Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and others… 

Unlike buying from a retailer selling online or using a platform such as Amazon, if you are buying used or nearly new goods from a private seller online you have no legal rights relating to the quality of goods and the goods must only be as described.  

You may get lucky with an understanding seller but often the logistics of returning an item may not be worth the hassle. ‘Buyer Beware’ is our advice when purchasing via this method. To find out more about reporting an issue on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree check out the information on BogusBuster.  

Other issues that could pop up…. 

Sponsored Ads 

If you’re a regular on social media like Facebook and Instagram, you will be familiar with pop- up sponsored ads up for all kinds of unusual and clever products. The links on these sites will take you to an independent website so it’s wise to be careful before buying or even better, send the link to the Bogus Buster handy URL checker if you’re unsure. Buster is a dab hand at sniffing out dodgy sites and keeping consumers safe. Always check the returns policy before buying and ensure you are buying goods from an SSL protected website – in the browser bar of the website look for the padlock icon. 

Counterfeit products 

If you receive goods that you suspect are counterfeit, it’s important to report this immediately. It is never advised to take a chance with these items as they could bring huge safety dangers. Counterfeit products such as make up, perfume, electrical items and toys do not go through rigorous testing and can contain dangerous ingredients – it’s just not worth the risk.

Every selling platform should have a mechanism to handle counterfeit products and should take these matters seriously. We also recommend taking up the issue with the seller directly and take photos of all the packaging and paperwork linked to this purchase. 

Postage and delivery fee refunds

This may vary depending on the situation, usually if you have changed your mind about your order then you normally will have to pay for the return of the item. Some online retailers will include free return labels or charge for these at the time of purchase. If the item is faulty you should not have to pay for the delivery costs to return the item and in some cases the seller may arrange for the pick-up. If you’ve paid extra for special delivery or delivery at a designated day or slot and the goods are delayed you should be able to claim this extra cost, as the retailer did not meet this obligation. 

Once the item has been returned to the seller under the Consumer Rights Act you should receive your refund including the initial postage costs within 14 days. Always contact the retailer immediately of your intention to return the item or if there is an issue within 14 days. Should you have to cover the costs to return the item, it’s wise to keep any proof of postage and copies of your correspondence with the company.  

Pay a safe way

If possible, pay for your goods with your credit card, debit card or using the PayPal Goods and Services option. It’s important to note, you will not be covered by any buyer protection if you pay for goods via Friends and Families on PayPal. Using these methods to pay for goods gives you extra protection if there is an issue or if your goods do not arrive for some reason.   

Stay safe when shopping online. BogusBuster has great resources to help you shop safely online and avoid scams, plus our handy free handy URL checker.