Cross-border shopping is growing in popularity thanks to the internet. What can you do when there is a problem with goods or services purchased online and what should you be aware of?

Your Rights - and what to look out for

The rights provided by European legislation (E-commerce Directive and Consumer Contracts Regulations) are the minimum level of protection you can expect from all across the EU. If the web trader is based within the EU, their website is expected to provide you with all the information about what it is you want to buy, and their contact details should be easily available for you to find.

"Cooling off" period

You have the right to expect a 14 calendar day cooling-off period in most online transactions, although there are exceptions including package travel and timeshare contracts. This 14 calendar day cooling-off period will begin the day after the goods are delivered and means that you can cancel for any reason - unlike when you buy from a shop you cannot take an item back if you have changed your mind.

Your cancellation does not need to be in writing, but needs to be a clear statement of your wish to cancel. Unless otherwise stated in the terms and conditions, you will have to pay the return postage costs . The trader must then provide a refund to you with 14 days but is entitled to deduct money if the goods show signs of unreasonable use.

If you cancel, any ancillary contracts such as warranties or finance are automatically cancelled.


When you place an order you are normally given an indication of when the item will be delivered. The goods should be delivered within 30 days of placing the order, unless you have agreed on an alternative delivery date.

Company location

When shopping online it is always important to know who you are dealing with and just because a website has a address does not automatically mean the trader is based in the UK. Neither does a UK call centre telephone number mean that the trader is necessarily based in the UK. When you are using a trader's website, try looking for their address before completing your order - it may not be in the 'contact us' page, but possibly in their 'terms and conditions'. If the address is difficult to find, ask yourself why? What is the trader trying to hide?

Pre contract information

You will find that all online order buttons must now be labelled with 'obligation to pay' or similar unambiguous words. You should no longer be caught by any extra payments, as pre-ticked boxes for payments such as insurance or gift-wrapping are illegal.

If you are asked to acknowledge that you have read through and understood the trader's terms and conditions - normally by the ticking of a box - don't just tick the box and move on! Make sure you read through them and if there is something you're not happy with or do not understand, seek further advice or clarification.

Consumers must be given details of cancellation rights, return costs, complaints procedures and redress.

This information is intended as guidance only - to provide you with an idea of what protection consumers have when shopping online. If you do find yourself in dispute with a web trader or want to know more, please get in touch with us!

Source: UK European Consumer Centre