rights on refunds

Consumers who buy goods and services at a distance, for example online, mail order or teleshopping, could be at a disadvantage as they cannot inspect the goods before they buy them. The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations (DSRs) introduced in 2000 provide additional protection to consumers who buy at a distance.

DSRs cover business to consumer transactions and while certain exemptions apply (eg personalised goods), they give the consumer the right to cancel the contract within seven days. To comply with the regulations, the supplier must then give a full refund. This includes the cost of the goods and any associated charges including delivery which the supplier must refund within 30 days.

The law does not, however, cover the consumer’s postal costs for returning unwanted items to the supplier, only the refund of the initial postal charges for delivery to the consumer.

If any business is unsure of its obligations, it should contact its local trading standards service for guidance. Consumers who want further advice should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.

Andy Foster, operations director at TSI, said: 'Most retailers comply with the regulations but we are aware of a few who are not refunding postal charges for initial delivery.

'Withholding the refund of these charges is a false economy. If customers are left with a bad taste in the mouth, they are unlikely to return to that business. The e-commerce retail sector in the UK is worth around £80 billion a year and strong consumer protection laws like these are an essential part of raising consumer confidence to ensure the market continues to grow.'

9 July 2010