National Consumer Week (NCW) is an annual campaign which aims to raise awareness of consumer issues, rights and resources available to help people when they need it. Every year the campaign covers a different topic, and this year our theme is online marketplaces, specifically focussing on those that sell goods.
Online marketplaces are platforms (websites/apps) which generally don’t own the goods being sold. Instead they’re a place for people and traders to sell items online. This means that sales are often consumer to consumer or small or medium enterprises (SME) to consumer sales.
This year’s campaign will be launching on ‘Cyber Monday’; a big pre-Christmas shopping day where there will be millions of people shopping online, including using online marketplaces.
Online shopping is now a big part of everyday life in the UK. In 2016, £154 billion was spent on the internet in the UK, and the vast majority of consumers (84%) are considered online shoppers. This shift to online spending is increasing, and while many online sales will be with established businesses, a significant proportion are from small or private sellers via online marketplaces.
While there are also benefits, people are having a range of problems when using online marketplaces. The main issues consumers reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service were:
- being sold faulty goods, or goods that went faulty shortly after sale.
- goods not arriving or not being sent by the seller.
- goods being mis-described in the sales adverts.
When problems occur, consumers often don’t know their rights might be different.
- Nearly half of people (48%) didn’t think there was a difference in their consumerrights when buying online compared to buying in a store, despite the fact that theyusually have enhanced rights on returns for online purchases.
- A significant proportion of people didn’t know their rights changed depending on thetype of seller – for example a trader or private seller – with over a third (35%) saying there wasn’t a difference in their rights and a further 9% saying they didn’t know either way.
Buyers can have problems when seeking redress.
- The most common redress issue reported to the consumer service is where theconsumer wanted a refund but was struggling to get one.
- 4 in 10 people (39%) said they were unaware of the consumer dispute resolutionservices that may be open to them.
This rise in online purchasing, combined with the problems reported to the consumer service, show a clear need to make sure that consumers are aware of their rights when using online marketplaces.
What are my rights?
If you’re buying from an online trader your rights are the same as if you were buying from any other online store.
- You normally have up to 14 days after receiving your goods to change your mind and get a full refund.
- If there is a problem with your item within the first 30 days from when you’ve bought it, you could get a refund, replacement or repair.
- If it can’t be repaired or replaced, then during the first 6 months in most cases you’re entitled to a full refund.
If you’re buying online from an individual seller, the principle of ‘buyer beware’ applies.
- Goods have to be how they were described to you by the seller, but the seller doesn’t have to disclose any faults.
- The seller can’t misrepresent goods though – for example claiming something used is brand new.
What can I do if I have a problem?
Contact the seller to try to resolve the issue.
Check the online marketplaces’ terms and conditions. These will sometimes offer you more protections.
If the seller arranged delivery, and the item hasn’t turned up or was delivered to the wrong location, it’s the seller’s legal responsibility to sort out the issue.
Some traders belong to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme, which means they offer a way to solve your problem without going to court.
What if I have a problem with a private seller?
Try to resolve the issue by contacting the seller directly first, but if you can’t:
- Check whether the online marketplace has their own protection and dispute resolution systems.
- Consider making a claim to the court – this is sometimes called a ‘small claim’.
Where to get help
Contact the Citizens Advice consumer service: 03454 040506
Textphone: 18001 03454 04 05 06
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Or visit us online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer
If you want to know more about this campaign visit:
For more detailed information about your rights when using an online market place visit:
For advice for those selling on online market places visit: