More and more Christmas shoppers buying online means an increasing number of us are worried about items arriving late or damaged.
Online sales accounted for 27 per cent of the £24bn taken by UK retailers last Christmas, and the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index predicts a further rise of 11 per cent in 2016.
That means nearly two in five of us are expected to make purchases on the internet this Christmas. However, unlike high street shops, online traders cannot be approached face to face if things go wrong.
Hayley Wharton of Lancashire-based law firm WHN Solicitors, said: “An increasingly high proportion of shoppers will be concerned about online deliveries not arriving on time, or opening packages to discover the item isn’t what they expected, or is broken.”
However, consumer protection laws are in place and returns policies set out for people with online delivery problems.
Hayley continued: “If your package doesn’t turn up at all you should go direct to the retailer. Your contract is with the retailer and they alone are responsible for fulfilling it. When you place your order with someone like Amazon, you are signing up to their terms and conditions – not the courier’s.”
Often shoppers are anxious that their orders will not arrive on time for Christmas and want a refund.
Hayley explained: “Online consumers have a minimum of 14-day period, starting the day after you agree to go ahead with the service, during which they can cancel the order. Make sure you check the terms and conditions just in case they’ve given you longer. If you’re concerned about missing Christmas, you can cancel the order before it arrives. Unlike shops, which refund customers as a gesture of goodwill, online traders must respect a consumer’s right to a refund within 14 days of placing their order.
“Before cancelling, though, it is a good idea to take a look for the missing item behind your wheelie bin or bushes around your house. Also, check that your neighbours haven’t taken delivery of your package and forgotten to bring it round.”
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 stipulates that items must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and match any description given. If goods fail to meet any of these conditions, depending on how much time has passed since you made the purchase will depend on the remedies available.
Hayley continued: “If goods arrive damaged close to Christmas, you may not be able to get them replaced before December 25. Nonetheless, you should get a full refund, including delivery or postage costs.
“You can also take advantage of new consumer protection measures – including longer refund rights – that came into effect in 2015 under the Consumer Rights Act. This means anyone who buys faulty goods is entitled to a full refund for up to 30 days after the purchase, as opposed to the previous refund period which was somewhat vaguely defined as a ‘reasonable time’.
“You should be careful, though, not to put a damaged item to one side and forget about it during the festive period. If you wait too long you may not be able to claim your money back – although you can still ask for the item to be repaired or replaced.”