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Gill Heath
County Councillor Gill Heath

Know your consumer rights during festive shopping period

People looking for bargains online throughout the Christmas and New Year sales period are being urged to get to know their rights and avoid scams.

New consumer laws were brought in last year, giving people greater clarity when they shop in store or online.

The Consumer Rights Act clarifies consumer law and includes legislation to allow people to obtain a full refund on faulty goods within 30 days of purchase, an ability to challenge unfair terms and conditions or those that are hidden in small print, and an ability to demand poor services are redone or that there is a price reduction.

In addition the laws cover faulty digital goods such as online films, games, music and e-books.

People can also take a few simple steps to reduce the chances of falling victims to scams and fraudsters.

Sales of counterfeit clothes and electrical items online have increased in recent years. People should be aware that websites sometimes use a domain name that falsely suggests they are UK-based.

Counterfeiting is illegal, can fund international organised crime and is harmful to businesses and the economy. Consumers who believe they are purchasing genuine goods are often left with inferior items.

Scam websites are often difficult to tell from genuine ones but there are some tell-tale signs people can look out for. People should be wary if the site:

• Offers are too good to be true, for example the price of an item is markedly lower than the market rate
• Has no information about the identity of the person operating the business such as the proprietor’s name or the company’s full name
• Has no geographic address for the business, preventing people from locating the business in the event of a dispute
• Makes no mention of any cancellation rights
• Has unfair or restrictive terms and conditions which limits people’s legal rights
• Only accepts payments via money transfer services such as MoneyGram and/ or Western Union

Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards leader Gill Heath said:

We want people to know their rights and be aware of potential pitfalls if shopping online over the next few weeks. Consumer laws apply to online or instore trade so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with them.

“Unfortunately internet shoppers are targeted by criminals and that’s why it is important people follow some simple safety tips while shopping.  We want people to be able to shop with confidence online, stay safe, and perhaps think about buying a gift from one of our local businesses.”