What are your rights when shopping online?

In most cases, your rights when buying over the internet, or on the phone, are the same as when you buy in a shop. These rights cover:

  • The way you are treated

  • The information you are provided with throughout the sale process

  • Your right to a refund during a certain period after your purchase

  • Your right to reparation when things go wrong

It is important to be aware that these rights are only straightforward when buying online from within the UK.

When buying from an auction, or from a private individual, you have far fewer rights and less protection when things go wrong.

What if you buy from abroad?

If you have a problem with goods bought from overseas, you should contact the body overseeing your rights in that country.

You should use a credit card when you buy goods from overseas, because this provides you with added protection under the Consumer Credit Act.

Do you get extra rights when buying online?

Yes, your additional online shopping rights include:

  • Access to easy to understand information about the product or service you want to buy, before you buy it.

  • This same information in writing once you have made your purchase.

  • A 14 day 'cooling off' period, during which you can cancel or reject any order without giving a specific reason but still get a full refund.

  • A full refund if the goods you buy don't arrive on or before the agreed delivery date. If no date is agreed, you can get a refund if your purchases are not with you in 30 days.

There are some exceptions to these rights, including:

  • Perishables, like flowers and food

  • Goods that have been personalised

  • Items like CDs, DVDs and games that have been unwrapped

  • Financial products, which may be covered by the Financial Services Regulations 2004

  • Online auctions, so check the website's terms and conditions before you buy

  • The sale of land

What if something goes wrong?

You are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which applies to products not fit for purpose, faulty, not as described by the vendor, or not of satisfactory quality:

  • As described means that the product should correspond to any description given before you made your purchase, e.g. quantity and measurements, or colour. The description could be on a website, made verbally, or on the product packaging.

  • Satisfactory quality is defined by the Citizens Advice Bureau as products which are, "free from minor defects, have good appearance and finish and are durable, safe and fit for all the purposes for which such goods are commonly supplied."

As well as being fit for their general purpose, the law says that any product you buy must be fit for any specific purpose discussed with the seller before you bought it. For example, if you buy a printer and are advised it will work with your computer.

If any goods you buy are not satisfactory, you may be able to make a claim up to six years after your purchase in England and Wales (five years in Scotland). You can usually claim for a refund, repair or replacement.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also covers any digital content (music downloads for example) you purchase, and you will have the right to a refund or replacement if they do not meet the above standards.

Remember these rights do not apply if you simply change your mind about a product you have bought, or decide you do not like it.

How to make a claim

If the goods you buy are faulty, you must return them to the seller within a reasonable period of time. This period depends on the product - check the GOV.UK website for detailed guidance on different product areas.

Some other useful points to remember include:

  • The seller must provide a replacement, repair or refund within a reasonable amount of time and without causing you significant inconvenience.

  • Your contract is with the seller, not the manufacturer. It is the seller's responsibility to deal with your claim.

  • If you have paid more than 100 for your goods and used a credit card, your credit card provider is also liable for your claim (under the Consumer Credit Act). However, it is probably best to contact the seller, as this may see your claim settled more quickly.

  • Your rights also apply to items bought in a sale, provided any faults were not made clear to you at the time of purchase.

  • Similarly, your rights also apply to second hand goods, though issues around wear and tear or quality are harder to prove.

  • You do not need to produce a receipt to claim a refund, repair or replacement.

When should you make a claim?

It is always best to make your complaint as soon as a problem with your purchase becomes apparent:

  • Send a letter of complaint to the seller by recorded delivery, keeping a copy for yourself

  • Keep copies of any replies you receive and any further letters you send

What if the seller rejects your claim?

If you claim within six months, the seller must prove that the goods were not faulty.

After six months, if you have been through the steps outlined above and the value of the claim does not exceed 5,000, you can file a claim with the small claims court.

If your claim is for more than 5,000, you will need to talk to a solicitor about pursuing your claim further. However, it is unusual for any claim under the Sale of Goods Act to reach this stage.

What if your goods don't arrive?

It is the retailer's responsibility to make sure purchases reach you. You can contact the courier to find out if they are still trying to deliver your item, but complaints should be directed to the store itself.

Under the Sales of Goods Act, the retailer has a 'reasonable' amount of time to deliver your order. You can usually find exact timescales on your order confirmation email, alongside any terms and conditions.

If the seller doesn't state how long it will be until your item is delivered, it should take no more than 30 days.

Can Section 75 help you?

If your purchase was between 100 and 30,000 and you paid by credit card, your card provider is equally as liable as the retailer for making sure you receive the item, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

If you paid under 100 by credit card, or any amount by debit card, you may be entitled to some Chargeback protection depending on your card issuer's policy.