This year’s National Consumer Week campaign, led by the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards and Citizens Advice, is raising awareness of online marketplaces and how consumer rights differ when buying online versus shopping on the high street.

So, if you’re Christmas shopping from your sofa this year, what are your rights if something goes wrong and how can you avoid problems in the first place?

What are my rights?

If you’re buying from an online trader your rights are the same is if you
were buying from any other online store:

  • You normally have up to 14 days after receiving the goods to change your
    mind and get a full refund.
  • If there’s a problem with your item within the first 30 days of purchasing it, you could get a refund, replacement or repair.
  • If it can’t be repaired or replaced, then during the first 6 months, in most cases,
    your’re entitled to a full refund.

What can I do if something goes wrong?

  • Contact the seller directly to try to resolve the issue.
  • Check the online marketplaces’ terms and conditions. They may have their own
    protection and dispute resolution systems.
  • Some traders belong to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme, which
    means they offer a way to solve the problem without going to court.
  • If you bought from a private seller, consider making a claim to the court –
    this is sometimes called a ‘small claim’.

Where can I go for more information?

How can I avoid getting caught out by fraudsters? 

This Christmas, Action Fraud and City of London Police are reminding shoppers to take extra care when shopping for gifts online. As consumers search online for bargains and gifts for loved ones, fraudsters are seeing this as an opportunity to trick people with the promise of great deals and big cash savings.

A report by Action Fraud shows that fraudsters conned 15,024 shoppers out of more than £11 million over the Christmas period last year.

People are being defrauded on popular social media websites and online auction sites. Action Fraud works together with platforms including Gumtree to combat fraud and to issue protect advice to consumers.

Mobile phones were once again the most common item that people tried to buy from fraudsters. Victims reported being hooked in with bargain deals on some of the most popular models of smart phones, only for the phone to never actually arrive and leaving them without presents to give on Christmas Day. Apple iPhones accounted for 74% of all mobile phones purchased that turned out to be fraudulent.

Electrical goods (including games consoles), household items, computers, clothing, and accessories also featured in many of the reports. Examples including Fingerling toys, UGG Boots and Apple MacBook’s were among the most popular items victims reported losing money to fraudsters on.

Last year, more than 30% of reports were made by women aged between 20 and 29, however anyone can fall victim to Christmas shopping fraudsters during the festive period.

Tips to avoid falling foul of festive fraudsters 

  • If something seems too much of a bargain, it’s probably poor quality, fake or doesn’t exist.
  • Don’t pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person. Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim of fraud.
  • Make sure you’ve installed the latest software & app updates. Criminals use weaknesses in software to attack your devices and steal information, such as your payment details.
  • Use a strong, separate password and 2FA (Two-factor authentication) to protect your email account. Criminals can use your email to access other online accounts, such as those you use for online shopping.
  • Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or text. The volume of online shopping related phishing emails increases during the holiday period. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Every Report Matters – if you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.