One question we get a lot here are MyInternationalShopping.com is what advice can we give to international shoppers who wish to return or want a refund for their overseas purchase?
This is a very good question and the answer is one that many shoppers won’t be aware of when shopping from abroad. Many shoppers probably aren’t aware of what consumer protection is available for domestic shopping let alone cross border shopping. We think it is important to have at least some knowledge before shopping internationally.
Consumer Protection Laws
Consumer protection laws are regulations and statutes designed to safeguard the rights and interests of consumers in their interactions with businesses and service providers. These laws aim to ensure fair and ethical practices, promote consumer safety, and provide legal recourse for consumers in case of disputes or harm. The specifics of consumer protection laws can vary by country, but they generally cover several key areas:
- Product Safety: Consumer protection laws often require businesses to ensure that the products they sell meet certain safety standards. This includes proper labeling, accurate product information, and protection against hazards or defects that could harm consumers.
- Consumer Rights and Information: These laws typically grant consumers certain rights and require businesses to provide clear and accurate information. This includes the right to receive truthful advertising, access to product information, fair contract terms, and protection against deceptive or unfair practices.
- Consumer Contracts and Warranties: Consumer protection laws often regulate the terms and conditions of contracts between businesses and consumers. They may require transparency in contractual terms, prohibit unfair contract clauses, and ensure that warranties are provided for products or services.
- Pricing and Fair Competition: Laws regarding pricing and fair competition aim to prevent unfair pricing practices, price gouging, misleading pricing strategies, or anti-competitive behavior that could harm consumers or limit their choices.
- Unfair or Deceptive Practices: Consumer protection laws generally prohibit businesses from engaging in unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices. This includes false advertising, misleading sales tactics, hidden fees, or any form of misrepresentation that could mislead or harm consumers.
- Consumer Privacy and Data Protection: With the increasing reliance on digital platforms, many consumer protection laws include provisions for protecting consumer privacy and data. These laws regulate the collection, storage, and use of personal information and often require businesses to obtain consent and protect consumer data from unauthorized access or misuse.
- Dispute Resolution and Remedies: Consumer protection laws typically provide mechanisms for resolving disputes between consumers and businesses. This can include avenues for complaints, mediation, arbitration, or access to small claims courts. Laws may also specify remedies available to consumers, such as refunds, repairs, replacements, or compensation for damages.
It’s important to note that consumer protection laws can vary in scope and strength from one jurisdiction to another. It’s advisable for consumers to familiarize themselves with the specific laws and regulations in their country or region to understand their rights and the available avenues for seeking redress.
Help and advice for consumers making overseas purchases.
MyInternationalShopping.com lists some of each shop’s returns/refund policy and provides a direct link to their policy or information on the shop’s page where we can (sometimes they can be hard to find on the shop’s websites). It is very important to become familiar with the returns policies just in case something is wrong or needs to go back. Some might have a 30 day, 14 day or even 365 day return period, so it is important to know what the period is you will be expected to get the items sent back, or apply for a refund.
Advice to help you to Shop Safely
1. Read shop reviews
We say read the shop listing and reviews and leave reviews in order to find out as much information as possible about the shops you wish to buy from and help others to do so. It is important for the shoppers to buy from the good, reputable retailers to minimize risk.
2. Use the MyInternationalShopping.com directory or check out our guides
Follow the link to, or find on each shop, the international shipping detail pages and returns pages to be aware of what the policies are before purchase.
3. Pay with a credit card.
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, the credit card company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the company. This means it shares equal responsibility with the retailer or trader for the goods or service supplied, allowing you to also put your claim to the credit card company. This applies for overseas/international purchases as well as domestic ones.
The goods must usually have cost more than £100 and not more than £30,000 for a single item. You don’t need to have put the full purchase price on your card.
4. Dispute resolution
If a company has a system, and many like Amazon.com AliExpress.com do, be sure to open a dispute ticket if necessary. If you cannot resolve a difference with the seller then use the tools and official channels open to you.
Overseas consumer protection laws:
A. Buying from inside the EU.
Each member country has the same or similar consumer protection laws as the UK, and I believe UK consumer protection law applies, so each buyer has the same protection as a domestic purchase. All countries offer 14 day cooling off period, and are obliged to give full details of cancellation rights, return costs, complaints procedures and redress on their website.
B. Buying from outside the EU.
Each buyer is bound by the contract with the seller and the laws of the country where the seller is based. All countries have consumer protection laws and each seller will be bound by them.
C. Procedures for returns/refunds.
Firstly correspondence must be made with the seller, we advise keeping all correspondence and make the claim within the returns period. The details are on each shop’s returns policies about who to contact and what information they need, such as a return authorization number. If they are not make polite contact informing the shop about the problem or reason for return/refund.
Who enforces consumer protection?
If this does not work, each country has a consumer complaints commission that can be contacted.
For example, if you have purchased goods from an American company then you could contact the ‘Federal Trade Commission’ (http://www.ftc.gov/) or the branch of the ‘Better Business Bureau’ local to the trader.
In Australia, it is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. (https://www.accc.gov.au/)
For EU purchases the UK European Consumer Centre can help. (http://www.ukecc.net/popular/shopping-online.cfm)
In the UK you should contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline.
Citizens Advice Non EU purchases
Which? Section 75 Consumer Credit Act
How to return an item bought cross border.
Here is a lighthearted look at some online shopping gone wrong!
If you have a question about international shopping, whether it be returns policies, shipping policies, consumer protection or advice about making a refund claim, please feel free to leave it in the comments section below, and we will endeavour to answer it as best and as quickly as we can.