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June 27, 2014

One in four SME online retailers breaking UK law

One in four SME online retailers breaking UK lawResearch by SafeBuy has highlighted the fact that large numbers of UK ecommerce stores are flouting the law. It has found that 25% of online retailers surveyed are committing breaches of legal requirements for online trading.

The survey reviewed 225 SME websites at random and found 75 breaches of basic legal requirements for retailing on the web.

Internet retailers are required to display a proper geographic address, a contact phone number and an email address, as well as having a legally-compliant returns policy.

However, the survey found that:

  • 6% did not provide a geographic business address.
  • 20% did not publish a contact email address. A "contact us" form is not an acceptable alternative. The law states: "The details of the service provider, including his electronic mail address, which makes it possible to contact him rapidly… must be displayed."
  • 7% did not advise the customer before paying that they have a legal "right of return" if they change their mind for 14 days after receiving the goods.

Richard Jones, founder of SafeBuy, said: "There are an estimated 65,000 UK online retailing sites and what this could mean is that some 16,250 of those websites are not complying with the law."

Many ecommerce sites have returns policies that don't meet legal requirements. Some said that consumers would not be able to return a product if they had opened the packaging. Other said the product must be in perfect condition.

Richard Jones said: "Some of these appear to rule out sending back any faulty or damaged-in-transit goods. These statements are clearly illegal. Consumers in general do not know the ins and outs of the law but SME online retailers certainly should."

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