Making sure you know your rights when online shopping


According to statistics, we now complete 10% of all our shopping online. Therefore it is more important than ever to know your entitlements when shopping on the internet. Kevin Maddox explains what to do when the item you have bought needs to be returned.

Read the small print

Whenever you make a purchase online it is really important to read the terms and conditions of returns. Do not assume that one policy is for all as this is far from the case. Some companies will pay the postage on any returns whereas some will lay the charge at your door. Although the length of time in which you can return goods is similar to that on the high street, many online retailers also offer a 'cooling off' period when items can be returned.

Check your items carefully

As soon as your order arrives in the post you should check its suitability and condition. If it is an item of clothing, is it the right color and shape? If it is something that needs to be a particular specification, such as a pair of binoculars, or a particular size, such as batteries, is it exactly what was ordered? Similarly, you should check to make sure that what you have ordered is all in one piece. Retailers who sell items online will do everything they can to ensure your goods reach you safely, but on the occasion that accidents do happen it is best to spot them sooner rather than later.

Keep your documentation

So whether it's batteries, binoculars or bras successful online shopping is all about communication from both sides. The best retailers will keep in regular contact with you regarding the processing, packing and dispatching of your purchases and it is a sage idea to keep these e-mails safe. When your item arrives it may well come with a receipt of sorts which you should also keep. It is a similarly good idea to keep the packaging and box that the goods arrived in. In addition to this, many companies will appreciate knowing that you are planning to return an item before you do so. This makes their life easier and shows consideration on your behalf. Doing so can make returning goods a far more straightforward endeavor.

Be bothered

Too often consumers decide that returning an item is just too much of a hassle. In these situations they can end up with something they do not even want cluttering up their home. In my business, an unwanted item that is not returned is simply going to waste when it could find a happy home elsewhere. It is shocking to think that much of what is bought online is discarded and even more shocking to consider the money that is essentially thrown away. Returning goods online need not be complicated and in many cases it is just as, if not more, straightforward than returning items to an actual shop. So now you know what to do and next time you buy something and subsequently want to return it there will be no stopping you.


Kevin Maddox runs an independent online antiques shop, selling everything from vintage theatre binoculars to reproduction Queen Anne chairs. She writes regularly on the subject of running a small business online for a range of websites and publications.

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