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As the retail sector hots up for the Christmas selling season, a warning shot has been fired at online sellers, telling them to match up to consumer protection regulations  or face action.

A report by the UK’s consumer watchdog, the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) has highlighted areas where online retailers need to get their act together in the run up to Christmas.

Earlier this year the OFT carried out checks on the websites of 156 major online retailers, to see whether they were complying with consumer protection regulations.

The OFT has now published the results of that survey, which has resulted in written notices to 62 of the retailers, pointing out where they are falling short.

The most common examples of non-compliance are:

  • Imposing limitations on customers’ rights to a refund if they cancel the order
  • Unreasonable limitations on customers’ right to inspect and assess the goods and to return them if defective
  • Failing to provide full contact details including an e mail contact address
  • Unexpected charges imposed at the time of checking out – what’s known as drip selling

Said Mario Savvides a solicitor in Grant Saw’s commercial department who prepares Terms and Conditions of trading for businesses: “This report by the OFT is hitting retailers in the run-up to the frantic Christmas shopping period, and sets out a tough reminder to put their house in order as quickly as possible.

“It’s not just about the major retailers who have been identified, as any online seller who doesn’t match up is going to be in line for penalties in future, and non compliance is bad for business because it damages reputation as well as leading to tough penalties.”

He added: “Every business selling online needs to examine their online trading terms and procedures to make sure they do not fall foul of the rules.”

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.