Focus on – On line shopping

Online spending is increasing, in 2016 £154 billion was spent via the internet in the UK. Many online sales are with established reputable businesses but on line consumers should always be careful.

  • Don’t pay for anything by transferring money directly to people or companies you don’t know – It’s doubtful a bank will be able to recover or refund your money. The safest way to pay for anything is by credit card.
  • Make sure shopping websites are authentic – Fraudsters can set up convincing websites with very similar spelling to the authentic one. It’s always best to type the website address into the browser address bar, rather than relying on suggestions thrown up by a search engine.
  • Ensure that payment pages are secure – Check that addresses begin with ‘https’ (‘s’ is for secure) and there’s a closed padlock in the address bar.
  • When you’ve finished paying, log out of your account – Simply closing the page may not do this automatically.
  • Watch out for unexpected emails, texts or posts urging you to click on a link or attachment – Fake parcel firm delivery messages containing harmful attachments disguised as delivery notes are commonplace.

A significant proportion of on line sales are with small or private sellers via online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy or Amazon Marketplace. Many consumers don’t know that their rights can be different when buying online, especially from a marketplace.  While most sellers are reputable, consumers have reported a range of problems

  • 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

Your rights when buying from an Online Trader

  • Your rights are the same if you buy from an online trader or an online store. You have from the moment you place your order until 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 you are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair.
  • If the item can’t be repaired or replaced, and it’s within 6 months of purchase, in most cases you are entitled to a full refund.


What to do if you have a problem

  • After contacting the seller to try and 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.


Your rights when buying from an online Private Seller

  • If you’re buying online from a private or 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 although they can’t misrepresent goods – for example claiming something used is brand new.
  • Private sellers having a responsibility to ensure that they must buy the correct type of postage for the good, and they are at fault if they do not

What to do if you have a problem

  • After contacting the seller to try and resolve the issue. 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’.

In all cases for more information either visit us online at  and type consumer into the search box or ring Citizens Advice Consumer Service on  03454 040506


A truly valuable service. My advisor was extremely helpful and reassuring. Thank you.

Deborah – December 2023

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