How to avoid Valentine’s Day heartbreak – tips for online traders

Following an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report warning that over 33 per cent of the UK’s top online retailers could be breaking e-commerce and distance selling laws, Rebecca Kelly, associate at hlw Keeble Hawson – one of Yorkshire’s largest law firms with offices in Leeds, Sheffield and Doncaster – helps online retailers to avoid falling foul of the law.

  • Review your online sales processes – including your terms and conditions – prior to the Valentine’s Day rush. This can be completed quickly and easily at a relatively low cost.
  • If you make a guarantee to your customers that you can deliver on a certain date, then you must do everything you can to make that happen – and ensure that the method of delivery is adequate. People have a very strong voice through social media and reputations can quickly be damaged if you fail to deliver on time.
  • Forewarn your customers early in the transaction process of any additional charges which may be added to their order. These can include card payment charges, booking fees and other taxes or duties.
  • Ensure that goods are delivered within 30 days and shoppers are given a 7-day cooling-off period (longer for financial products) during which they can cancel an order and obtain a full refund.
  • Avoid imposing restrictions or conditions which affect the consumer’s right to cancel their order and receive a refund. These include requiring customers to return goods in their original packaging, original condition or in a re-saleable condition. This cuts across a consumer’s right to have a reasonable opportunity to inspect and assess the products they have purchased.
  • Where you are obliged to provide a full refund to a customer, ensure that refund includes the costs you charged the customer for delivering their goods.
  • Provide consumers with adequate contact information. An email address together with a postal address and contact telephone number is the preferred option.

Ensuring compliance with regulations – including the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (DSRs) and the Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002 – is more critical than ever.