Office of Fair Trading writes to retailers

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has said that a number of online sellers, including several high profile retailers, may not be complying fully with consumer protection laws. From a sample of 156 websites, it has written to 62 big brand retailers and has outlined its concerns, but has declined to identify them.

Most of the breaches relate to the Distance Selling Regulations and relate to matters such as contact details not being sufficiently clear on a retailer’s website, cancellation rights and the manner in which prices and charges are advertised. The OFT believes most of the breaches are inadvertent and that there is no intention to mislead consumers. It has encouraged retailers to review their websites to ensure consumer law provisions are being respected.

The Distance Selling Regulations require retailers to include details of their postal address and a contact email address. The OFT found that more than 80% of retailers had provided a full postal address, although it noted that some websites were displaying a PO Box address and 5% of websites did not include an address of any sort. It also found that more than half of the websites if looked at included a web contact form, whereas the Regulations require an email address to be provided. 2% of the websites included no electronic contact details whatsoever.

The Regulations also require retailers to supply goods within 30 days or, if they are unable, to refund customers who have placed an order. Consumers are also able to cancel their order within seven days of delivery and receive a full refund.

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