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Law guide




The increasing availability of the internet and digital TV means that it's now even easier to shop without leaving your home. Despite this, you should still take care when paying for goods and services online.

Before you buy

Make a note of the company's contact details, including a street address and landline telephone number. Never rely on just an email address.

You should also remember that you may have to pay for shipping costs, customs duty, VAT, etc. All these hidden costs can push up the price of the goods or service. It should be quite clear if you are expected to pay any extra costs and VAT should be included in all prices quoted, but frequently is hidden on separate pages called "shipping policy" etc. There are also, quite frequently, FAQ pages which hold this kind of information. Make sure that you're certain that you've worked out all of the costs and implications before you commit to buy. If you are unsure, contact the company.

Paying for goods online

It may be worth paying by credit card. If the goods or services you are buying cost over £100 and you pay by credit card, you may be protected by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This states that the credit card company is equally liable for any defects. Therefore, should a problem arise, you can claim EITHER from the trader OR from the credit card company.

Note that for this protection to apply, the contract price must be over £100. For example, if you buy a suit, the jacket of which costs £75 and the trousers cost £40, you would have protection. However, if you bought the items separately instead of as one suit, you would not be afforded the same protection, as neither of the items amount to £100. This protection is available from your credit card company, even if the trader you bought the goods or services from is situated outside the UK.

Problems can arise when the company you are buying from is based outside the EU. For example, a guarantee may not be valid in the UK, or the goods may not work in the UK. Although UK law may cover your contract, in practice it might be very difficult to get any money out of a company based abroad.

Top tips

  • Make sure that the web address of the page starts https:// before you enter any personal information or payment details. The's' stands for 'secure'. There should also be a small locked padlock that appears in the bottom of your browser window.
  • Always print out a copy of your order and a copy of the acknowledgement that it usually emailed to you.
  • Always check your bank statements carefully if you purchase something on the internet.
  • You should never be asked to tell anyone your card's PIN number - even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. Never send your PIN number to anyone over the internet.

What to do if things go wrong

If you buy goods on the internet, you still have the same rights as if you were shopping on the high street, in relation to faulty or poorly described goods.

In addition, you are entitled to a seven working-day 'cooling off' period, as described in the 'distance selling' section of the Your right to cancel article. (Please note that the rules for financial services (including consumer credit) may allow a different withdrawal period.)