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Office of Fair Trading gives advice for online Christmas shopping

16 December 2010 - 10:23 by Simon Crisp

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The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has provided UK consumers with some handy tips to help people carry out safe shopping online in the final days before Christmas arrives.

There are many rights protecting consumers who shop online, but the OFT has announced that only one in five websites is actually in line with regulations when it comes to providing a fair retail platform.

The most common way in which e-commerce firms fail to meet with legal requirements is in allowing customers to return unwanted or damaged goods, as many will simply refuse to give consumers their money back or make it very difficult to get in contact.

The OFT also urges consumers to watch out for websites which offer prices which seem lower than the competition, before piling on extra charges for card transactions and delivery which can quickly mount up and reduce an initial bargain to a bloated final price.

Around 14 per cent of consumers have been misled or poorly treated by e-commerce firms, according to OFT figures. Of this group over a third said that they would think twice before shopping online again.

The OFT is taking direct action to oust those retailers who operate online and fail to protect the rights of consumers. In addition, it is looking at the firms which have long histories of offering safe shopping online, to see whether even the most mainstream retailers are failing to meet high street standards for service and safety.

In 2011 the publication of a list of unscrupulous online retailers will be made public by the OFT, although it could be a little too late for consumers who are stocking up on gifts this Christmas.

Anyone who is unsatisfied with their online shopping experience can contact the OFT, but getting in touch with the retailer to sort out grievances is also advised.