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Complaints champion fights for your rights.

Byline: JAMES Walker

THIS week I received an email from Diane Stepney who told me about her order with a well known online retailer.

It seems Diane had ordered a present for her son's 16th birthday and it was not as she expected. She wanted to understand her right to return the product. So I thought I'd share my explanation with you.

There is a famous scene in Ace Ventura Pet Detective where he pretends to be a courier and delivers a parcel by kicking it along the ground. In recent years, a number of stories have emerged of parcels being damaged, left in the wrong place or couriers alleging no one was at home, when someone had been there all day.

Ordering online is quick, easy and often less of a hassle than shopping on the high street. We can shop around without moving around. Online shopping now accounts for at least 10 per cent of retail sales.

The downside is we cannot see the products and we have to wait for them to arrive. However, if the goods are not right, 60 per cent of shoppers are less likely to return products purchased online than from a shop.

According to the Government, 77 per cent of consumers do not know the difference between their online buying rights and their rights when buying directly in a shop.

A lot of the issues experienced have related to couriers either damaging or simply not delivering the goods. If the goods delivered are damaged you can either ask for a refund or request a replacement.

The big question is always who pays for the return postage as it's not the consumer's fault that the goods are damaged.

Do I have to pay for the cost of returning? THERE is no simple answer to this question and the answer will depend on the retailer. The current regulations are unclear on who covers the cost. However, if your purchase was damaged when it arrived then it is reasonable that the firm pays for the return postage cost.

If the goods are faulty and you have requested a replacement, the return postage for the faulty goods should also be covered by the retailer.

Finally, if there is an unfair term in the contract you can also argue that you should receive a refund. However, this can be difficult to prove.

But even if the contract states no refunds, if the goods are not as described you are entitled to a refund.

Do I have to use the same packaging? YOU do not need to use the same packaging to return the product. However, your case will be strengthened if you return the damaged goods using the original packaging.

If an item arrives damaged the seller should pay for the cost of its return When can I get a refund? UNDER the European Union Distance Selling Act you have seven days in which to raise an issue, known as Distance Selling Regulations.

You must send the products back or the company may collect. By law the retailer must process your refund within 30-days from receipt of the returned goods.

There are some exceptions where you are not entitled to a refund such as music, DVDs, software where the seal is broken, perishable items, underwear and earrings or a product that has been specially made or adapted for you.

Your refund should include the original cost of the product plus any cost of posting.

How long do I have to wait? DID the retailer agree a timescale to deliver the goods to you? The goods must be delivered within this agreed timescale, or you have the right to cancel. If you did not agree a timescale, the Distance Selling Regulations say you must receive the goods within 30 days or you have the right to cancel.

Diane's results DIANE sent the goods back and received a refund for the product, including the postage costs for receiving and returning the product. In the end, Diane lost no money.

James | Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution tool Follow James via @resolvercouk, or email


Many remain confused over their consumer rights when it comes to the return of items purchased online

If an item arrives damaged the seller should pay for the cost of its return
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 15, 2015
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