Don't Get Hexed! Know Your Rights When Shopping Online

by Kate Whitegroatt
Hexmas is on the way and many more of us are ditching the busy shopping centres and opting for online shopping to get all our gifts and Christmas treats, without the hassle of queuing and fighting over that last one on the shelf. Although online shopping has considerable advantages, you should always know what your rights are, so that you can make sure that companies are treating you right as a customer, and you're not losing out. Here at KC we take consumer rights and trading standards VERY seriously, but it's not always the case with every online shop - so read on for some tips and advice about the rules for online shops and your rights as a customer! Please note all the advice below applies to companies trading within the UK and the EU. Outside of the EU, different rules apply.

What rules are out there for online shops?

The Consumer Contracts Regulations (formerly known as Distance Selling Regulations before 2014) were put in place to make sure that customers buying goods online (or through other distance selling methods such as catalogues or over the phone) know exactly what they're paying for, how much it's costing them, when they will receive whatever they've paid for, and are protected if things go wrong. You can read about the regulations for online selling in the UK on the government website here. If you shop online regularly it's definitely worth familiarizing yourself with them, so that you can tell if a shop isn't following the rules and work out how best to proceed.

These are some of the rules that online and distance sellers must follow:
  • they must provide their business name, contact details and address
  • a description of their goods or services
  • the price, including all taxes
  • how a customer can pay
  • delivery arrangements, costs and how long goods will take to arrive
  • the customer must have a copy of the contract of sale on paper, or as an e-mail or page that can be saved or printed off
  • the customer must be allowed to cancel their order - if they are told that they are allowed to cancel their order, they can cancel within 14 days of receiving their purchase - if they are not informed that they have a right to cancel their order, they can do so at any time within the next 12 months.
  • the customer doesn't need to give a reason to cancel an order
  • goods must be delivered within 30 days unless a longer time frame is agreed with the customer

What about returns?

You can cancel an order within 14 days of receipt - this is the legal minimum. This means you have 14 days after receiving your order to make the company aware that you wish to cancel. Some shops may extend this beyond the legal minimum, but be aware that if they do offer returns after the minimum of 14 days, they are allowed to impose extra conditions such as:
  • a requirement to return the goods in unopened packaging
  • a deadline for returns
  • an offer to exchange or offer a credit note, but not to refund

But this is only if the request to cancel was made outside the 14 day window. If you cancel the order within the 14 day window, you are entitled to a full refund. The store may stipulate conditions of return and deadlines to return the goods to them, so it's worth checking the store's specific terms.

What about sale items?

Your rights are exactly the same for sale items as they are for non-sale items! If you cancel your order within 14 days of receiving the item, you are entitled to a refund. So if a store is telling you that they don't offer refunds on sale items or that they will only offer an exchange or store credit, you can tell them that this goes against distance selling regulations, and you can report them if they still don't accept your return! If it is outside of the 14 day window however, they do have the right to add extra terms to the return policy.

What can affect my right to a refund?

If you damage an item, shops have the right to deduct an amount from your refund to compensate them for this. To some extent you may have to damage an item slightly, for example tearing the packaging to try on an item of clothing - shops cannot withhold part of your refund if this damage was unavoidable. However, if for example you tear an item of clothing, spill something on it, break something, or if clothing/shoes have clearly been worn for more than the time taken to try them on, this can affect your refund. Always check the store's returns and refunds policy and any terms and conditions, check this against distance selling regulations, and if anything is unclear you may want to get in touch with the store to clear up anything ambiguous.

But their policy says...

Online stores' policies do differ, and stores are allowed to choose their own policies to make it clear to their customers how they deal with things like returns and refunds. However, their policy cannot go against distance selling regulations - they still have to follow the law! In fact, it is illegal to mislead customers with your policy by stating things like 'we do not accept returns' or 'exchange only' when customers are actually within their rights to ask for a return and refund within the 14 day window.

What about shipping costs?

Companies are obliged to include the cost of shipping in your refund - however, they only have to refund the basic shipping rate by law, so if you have opted for a premium shipping method they may not reimburse you for the full shipping amount. Some companies (like us if you're in the UK!) offer free returns, whilst other companies will expect you to pay for the cost of the return. Check their policy before you make a purchase so that you know where they stand.

What about KC?

We take these regulations and customers' rights seriously here - always have, always will - not only because it's the law and the right thing to do, but also because it makes shopping with us enjoyable and stress free, and makes our customers want to come back again after that first order with us. We always allow returns within the 14 day window, and if clothing is in a saleable condition we are flexible with returns outside of that window. We also give you 30 days after receiving the item to get in touch to let us know if you wish to return it! For our UK customers returns are FREE, and for our international customers we will reimburse the cost of returns if the item was faulty. We always respond to your e-mails as soon as we can, and to calls during working hours, and are happy to discuss any problems with your order and find the best solution. Because we know that Christmas can be a hectic time for shopping, and since you may be purchasing items from our store as gifts, we are extending our returns window for orders placed before Christmas until the 22nd January to make sure you've got plenty of time to return items once you or the person you bought it for has had a chance to try it out.

Our full terms and conditions and our returns information can be found on our site under 'Info.' Make sure you check these on every site you shop with this Christmas!

If you're having problems with a store, help can be found on the trading standards website here. Don't be afraid to challenge a seller if their policies seem out of line - tell them you know your rights!


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