Press releases

Become a savvy online shopper during national consumer week

More than half of the estimated 27 million shoppers [1] who will go online to seek out bargain buys this Christmas will be in the dark about their basic consumer rights [2] , warns the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) and Consumer Direct today.

This year's National Consumer Week, which launches on Monday (12 November), aims to help change all that by providing the tips and advice all online shoppers should heed before striking a deal in cyberspace.

The Office of Fair Trading estimates that annual online spending has risen to more than £30 billion - but a worrying percentage of shoppers are unaware of their consumer rights and responsibilities.

The findings from a recent OFT market study revealed that online buyers lacked knowledge about their ability to cancel an order, how to get a refund and how to check that online traders meet legal obligations.

National Consumer Week, organised by the TSI and supported by Consumer Direct and local authority trading standards services across the country, seeks to raise awareness of online rights, responsibilities and potential pitfalls under the theme: 'Shopping from Afar? Know What Your Rights Are!'

Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of TSI, said: 'The internet is a fantastic marketplace for UK shoppers, but consumers could do more to protect themselves and get a better deal. During the course of the week, we'll be drawing attention to the issues and educating consumers about effective online shopping.'

Consumer Direct, the government-funded telephone and online consumer advice service that works with local authority trading standards services, is this week publishing new advice on its website and giving people the chance to test their online shopping knowledge in a quiz at Consumer Direct

Christine Cryne, Director for Consumer Direct at the Office of Fair Trading, said: 'Consumer Direct advisors take calls everyday from people asking about their online rights or trying to solve a problem with goods bought online. The law provides consumers with quite a lot of protection, and we are encouraging more people to find out more about where they stand.'

Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas said: 'Millions of people will do their Christmas shopping online this year. These internet shoppers get some fantastic deals and access to a whole new world of choice. However, it is still important to be careful. Shoppers should use sites that have been recommended, check where traders are based and read the small print.'

Trading Standards Officers and Consumer Direct advisors will be taking part in events up and down the country during the course of the week to alert shoppers to their rights, provide tips on effective shopping and advise them how to shop safely at a distance.

[1] Forester Research Inc has forecast that 27 million UK consumers will shop online from October to December 2007 - see IMRG

[2] The OFT's 2007 market study into Internet Shopping found that 56 per cent of internet shoppers did not know about their right to cancel under the Distance Selling RegulationsRegional Events List (PDF 12KB)

Our Top Tips For Shopping Online

  1. Make sure you're getting a good deal

  • shop around by using price comparison sites and multiple search engines
  • when comparing prices, check that the advertised price includes everything you have to pay, for example tax and delivery charges
    1. Know who you're dealing with

    • check the trader's details on their website, including their geographic and email addresses
      • don't assume '.uk' means that the seller is based in the UK
        • read all trader reviews and help others by writing reviews when you make purchases
          • check if the seller is a member of a trust scheme, such as Internet Shopping Is Safe (ISIS) or Safebuy as a sign that the retailer is committed to good practice
            1. Know your distance selling rights

            • check your cancellation rights before making a purchase: under the Distance Selling Regulations you can get a full refund on many products if you cancel within seven working days after the day of receipt
              • if returning goods you are entitled to a refund of the original delivery cost but check the terms and conditions to see who will cover the cost of returning them
                • traders are not allowed to deduct a restocking charge or administration fee for returned goods
                  • if you wish to cancel, you must take reasonable care of the goods you are returning
                    • check and keep all receipts, order confirmations and correspondence
                      • goods should be delivered within 30 days after date of order, unless you agree to a different delivery timeframe
                        • complain to the trader if you have a problem shopping online
                          • contact Consumer Direct if the trader does not resolve your problem
                            1. Protect your personal and financial information

                            • use security software and keep it up to date
                              • look for a padlock symbol () or 'https' in the website address before inputting personal details
                                • if you use a credit card for purchases of £100 or more, you may get reimbursement from the credit card company if something goes wrong
                                  • check your bank and credit card statements regularly and contact your bank immediately if you think your details have been disclosedInformation and advice on your distance selling rights is available all year round from government-funded advice service Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or via the website at Consumer Direct

                                    For more information about National Consumer Week please contact the TSI press office on 0845 608 9430 or email

                                    A full press pack, including case studies, will be available at the launch of National Consumer Week, taking place on Monday November 12 2007 at the Office of Fair Trading, Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London, EC4Y 8JX, from 10am to noon. Senior representatives of TSI, Consumer Direct and the OFT will be joined by consumer affairs minister Gareth Thomas and local authority trading standards officers at the event, which will be followed by the TSI media awards presentations. Journalists and broadcasters are welcome to attend - please notify the press office of your requirements.

                                    National Consumer Week

                                    This is the 17th annual National Consumer Week organised by the Trading Standards Institute and for the third year in association with Consumer Direct, the government-funded consumer advice telephone and online service.

                                    National Consumer Week is a platform to raise awareness about specific consumer issues and particularly to highlight new developments in an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace. It profiles the work of and is supported by local authority trading standards services across the UK.

                                    Trading Standards Institute

                                    The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

                                    Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

                                    TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

                                    They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

                                    Consumer Direct - 08454 04 05 06

                                    Consumer Direct is a Government-funded telephone and online consumer advice service that works in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards Services. It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services. Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.

                                    Calls cost a maximum of 4p per minute from a BT landline. Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. The advice and information given is free.