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Online shoppers to be afforded greater protection

Online shoppers to be afforded greater protection

Category: Money

Updated: 10/12/2010
First Published: 10/12/2010

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

UK shoppers that buy their goods online are set to benefit from greater protection. Consumers spend billions of pounds every year online, with revenues acting as a major contributor to the UK economy.

However, research by the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) has found that only around one in five firms are fully complying with consumer law for online shopping, with common breaches including unfair restrictions on cancellations of orders for products.

It was also found that also found that despite UK consumers being the biggest online shoppers in Europe, one in four people worry more about online shopping than offline.

Figures out earlier this week showed that some 43% of Christmas shopping will be carried out online this year.

Overall, one in seven consumers has experienced a problem when buying online, of whom 37% have since been reluctant to buy online again.

As a result, the OFT has set out a long term strategy to offer greater protection to online shoppers. These measures include more effective enforcement and closer work between the OFT, the police and trading standards in a bid to share information and better co-ordinate investigations.

It will also focus on:

  • Business compliance - the strategy outlines continuing work with businesses to raise awareness of consumers' online rights. This includes working with website designers to ensure compliance is built into new sites, and maintaining dialogue with industry.
  • Empowering consumers – this will focus on giving people clear information about their rights when things go wrong. The strategy reinforces the need to ensure relevant consumer messages are consistent across organisations and avoid duplication, as well as the importance of creating a national online reporting system.

"The UK has a vibrant internet economy, with strong online participation and generally high levels of trust," Barney Wyld, OFT senior director, strategy and communications, said.

"However the way we shop online is constantly changing and organisations protecting consumers need to be highly responsive to emerging or complex online shopping problems.

"We hope this strategy will lead to greater understanding by all concerned of consumer rights online, to enable further innovation and growth, whilst ensuring fair competition."

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