With Black Friday this week, and in the run up to Christmas and New Year sales, people looking online for bargains are being urged to know their consumer rights and avoid scams.
This year National Consumer Week follows Black Friday and Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team will continue to issue advice and guidance to shoppers, and advising people to get familiar with their consumer rights before they shop, particularly online. .
Consumer laws were updated in 2015 and aim to give people greater clarity when they shop in store or online. The Consumer Rights Act clarifies consumer law and includes legislation to allow people to obtain a full refund on faulty goods within 30 days of purchase, an ability to challenge unfair terms and conditions or those that are hidden in small print, and an ability to demand poor services are redone or that there is a price reduction. In addition the laws cover faulty digital goods such as online films, games, music and e-books.
People can take a few simple steps to reduce the chances of falling victims to scams and fraudsters. Sales of counterfeit clothes and electrical items online have increased in recent years. People should be aware that websites sometimes use a domain name that falsely suggests they are UK-based. They should be particularly wary of goods being offered for sale on social media. Quite often these are counterfeit goods which are potentially dangerous and of poor quality.
Scam websites are often difficult to tell from genuine ones but there are some tell-tale signs people can look out for. People should be wary if the site:
- Offers are too good to be true, for example the price of an item is markedly lower than the market rate
- Has no information about the identity of the person operating the business such as the proprietor’s name or the company’s full name
- Has no geographic address for the business, preventing people from locating the business in the event of a dispute
- Makes no mention of any cancellation rights
- Has unfair or restrictive terms and conditions which limits people’s legal rights
- Only accepts payments via money transfer services such as MoneyGram and/ or Western Union
Staffordshire County Council’s communities leader Gill Heath said: “Black Friday is a fairly recent event for UK retailers to focus on but has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly with online sales. People have already started Christmas shopping and this will be an extremely busy period until the New Year. We want to remind people of their rights and be aware of potential pitfalls when they’re shopping over the next few weeks.
“Consumer laws apply to online or instore trade so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with them. Unfortunately internet shoppers are increasingly targeted by criminals and that’s why it is important people follow some simple safety tips while shopping. We want people to be able to shop with confidence online and stay safe.”
People with concerns about shopping online should visit Citizens Advice on www.citizensadvice.org.uk or telephone Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 03454 04 05 06, textphone: 18001 03454 04 05 06, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.