New rules to protect online shoppers

6 August 2013

Consumers who feel they have been misled or bullied into buying goods or services will be entitled to a full refund within 90 days of purchase, under new proposals announced by the government.

The proposals aim to make consumer rights clearer, and will benefit online shoppers with the banning of pre-ticked boxes, and the doubling of the time-frame during which online customers can get a refund.

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said: "For too long the rules that apply when buying goods and services have been murky for both consumers and businesses. We want consumers to be confident to shop with a range of traders and to drive rogues out of business."

The new plans will give consumers 90 days to cancel a contract if they feel they've been misled. After 90 days consumers will still be entitled to a proportion of what they paid if they cancel.

Customers who have bought online currently have seven days to return an item but this will increase to 14 days under new plans.

Businesses will no longer be able to include pre-selected ticked boxes that result in the customer having to pay a fee. The new rules will also ban a business from charging more than the basic rates on their customer helplines.

A customer being misled is classed as having been given false information by the seller, or been deceived by the seller.

Research from Consumer Focus found 60% of Brits have been the target of unfair commercial practices, with 7% suffering more than a £500 loss, and 3% a £1,000 loss.

The proposals aim to protect vulnerable and elderly customers who are most at risk of rogue traders. Last week a former M&S Energy salesperson released details of how the provider actively targeted older female customer who were said to be the easiest to sign up.

'Protecting people from bullies'

Citizens Advice received 77,000 complaints about misleading claims and high pressure selling last year.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "A beefed-up approach to tackling misleading and aggressive practices is desperately needed and will be a step towards protecting people from bullying business."

Martin Lewis, founder of, added: "This is an important shift of emphasis from the rather arduous and resource-heavy prosecuting of rogue behaviour, towards rights of the individual. The important part will be ensuring the system makes it relatively easy for people to enforce the rules – or only the financially-literate will gain."

The proposals form part of the consumer rights bill announced in June, and due to be introduced by June 2014.

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