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Published: 24/11/2017
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The Black Friday frenzy has begun, with consumers set to spend billions over the next few days. But could you end up spending more than you need to, and are you aware of your rights? Consumers are being urged to keep an eye on their spending habits this weekend to avoid it costing far more than they bargained for.

Record spending

Spending is predicted to hit record levels this weekend, with research from VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research showing that Brits are set to splurge £7.8bn between now and Cyber Monday, up 7% on last year. The four-day bonanza is fast becoming the biggest shopping period in the calendar, and online shopping is enjoying a particular boost – the figures show that spending online is set to ramp up by 12% this weekend, as more and more people choose to hit the net instead of the high street.

Yet this could also mean that people spend far more than they were planning to, with the ease and convenience of online shopping meaning that the temptation to spend is even greater than on the high street. Additional figures from show that 57% of respondents confessed that they were more likely to make an impulse purchase online than instore, and with 43% saying that they fear missing out on a bargain, it's little wonder that baskets are set to overflow.

However, many also admit to making unnecessary purchases and regretting their buys later down the line, with 20% confessing to making very wasteful mistakes and 36% having rushed into purchases without thinking it through, the result being that the average consumer has spent £267 since January on things that have been a "mistake". Buyers' remorse isn't the only issue at play here, either, with the buzz of Black Friday also being the perfect opportunity for scammers to strike.

Avoid scams

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute is calling on consumers to be aware of their rights and stay vigilant against scammers, as although there are specific laws in place to protect consumers – under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – some rogue traders slip through the net, particularly online and in social media marketplaces, with counterfeit goods being a particular issue.

Leon Livermore, CEO at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, warned:
"Dangerous counterfeit and unverified goods may cost less in money but could cost you your home or even a life. While consumer law can be daunting, taking the time to understand your rights pays off in the long run."

The Institute says that, while it can be difficult for consumers to tell the difference between a genuine online store and a scam website, there are a few things to consider:

  • If it's too good to be true – i.e. if the price is much lower than at comparable stores – then it probably is.

  • Does the website have the right kind of information, such as a company address or returns policy? If not, give it a wide berth.

  • Check the terms and conditions, and again, if anything seems off – if your rights are affected, for example – don't shop.

  • Be wary of stores that only accept payment through money transfer services, as debit/credit card and ideally PayPal payments should always be offered.

  • Look for the padlock sign in the web browser to check that the site is secure. If it doesn't have it, NEVER enter payment details.

Consumer Rights

It's worth being aware of your rights, too, as this could become particularly handy if you need to return anything you buy this weekend. The main takeaway is that, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, all products must be of satisfactory quality (they shouldn't be faulty or damaged in any way when you receive them), fit for purpose (able to fulfil the purpose that they were supplied for) and as described (they must match any description that was given).

If the product doesn't meet the criteria listed, you have the right to return the goods. Any retailer is obliged to uphold that and you have the right to a full refund if you return the item within 30 days. If you fall outside the 30-day right to reject window, the retailer should try to repair or replace the item, and you may be entitled to a full or partial refund in some cases (but be aware that if you leave it for longer than six months, you'll need to prove that the fault was there at the time of purchase).

If you want to return an item for any other reason – if you've simply changed your mind, for example – bear in mind that retailers are under no obligation to accept it, but most will offer a goodwill refund policy if you return the goods within a certain timeframe. It's a bit different for online orders, however, where a 14-day cooling off period applies (unless you buy something bespoke or custom-made, for example).

Shop wisely

The next few days could be the perfect opportunity to grab a bargain or even to get your Christmas shopping sorted, but just make sure to go about it in the right way. That means only ever buying from reputable shops and trying to not get swept up in the hype, and never spending more than you can afford. You could even try to bulk up your money saving by shopping through cashback websites, or putting your purchases on a cashback credit card, provided you can comfortably afford to repay the balance. Happy shopping!


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