If you've bought something online and you have a complaint about it you can now take your dispute to a new Europe-wide website called the Online Dispute Resolution platform.
The aim is to help shoppers and online traders resolve complaints entirely online in order to avoid going to court.
For the first time you will also be able to deal with disputes over purchases bought from European sellers, for example on eBay, or through European websites quickly and easily as it covers UK and EU purchases.
“Most consumers experiencing problems when buying online don’t complain, as they believe the procedure is too long and that it won’t be solved,” explained Vera Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumer and Gender Equality at the European Commission. “The Online Dispute Resolution platform is an innovative tool saving time and money for consumers and traders.”
The platform is linked to 117 dispute resolution bodies across 17 EU member states at present, but it is hoped it will have full coverage of all member states soon. This means that if the country where your purchase originated from is part of the service you should be able to resolve your problem within 90 days on average.
The European Commission hopes that the new service will encourage people to buy from across the EU.
“It will improve consumer trust when shopping online and support businesses sell cross border, contributing to Europe’s Digital Single Market,” said Jourová.
What are you entitled to?
If you are unhappy with an online purchase, here’s what you need to know about your rights:
Changed your mind
If you buy something online you are entitled to return it even if there is nothing wrong with it, as you may have bought it based on a brief description or picture that means you may not have made a fully informed decision.
This means you are given a 14-day cooling off period during which you can change your mind. If you do, then you have another 14 days to return the item.
You should receive a full refund within 14 days of the return. However, this rule doesn’t apply to perishables (you can’t return dead flowers or mouldy bread), goods that have been used or personalised, or items bought at auction.
Product not what you expected
If the item you’ve bought isn’t ‘as described’ then you have up to six years under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to return it for a refund.
Anything you buy has to be of satisfactory quality. This is described by Citizens Advice as “goods that are of satisfactory quality are free from minor defects, have good appearance and finish are durable, safe and fit for all the purposes for which such goods are commonly supplied”.
If you buy something that doesn’t meet these requirements you are entitled to return it for up to six years under the Consumer Right Act 2015.
What to do if you’re not happy
If you’ve bought something online and you aren’t happy for one of the reasons above, then the first step is to speak to the retailer who sold you the item. They should provide a replacement, repair the item or give you a full refund within a reasonable period of time without you being significantly inconvenienced.
If your problem isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, you have a number of options. If the item cost more than £100 and you bought it with a credit card you can claim a refund from your credit card provider under the Consumer Credit Act.
You can also make a complaint to the retailer quoting the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Make a note of any correspondence that you have with the seller.
Normally the next step would be to go to the small claims court, but now you can go to the Online Dispute Resolution platform for assistance in resolving your complaint.