Citizens Advice top tips to ensure safe and savvy shopping this Black Friday
Ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Citizens Advice is reminding consumers of their online shopping rights and how to make sure they stick to their budget.
The charity has seen the number of people coming to its consumer service about online shopping nearly double, with almost 125,000 online shopping-related issues so far this year compared to the same period in 2019.
With England still in lockdown, sale shopping will look a little different this year so Citizens Advice experts are on hand to make sure you know your consumer rights and help keep within your budget.
Consumer Expert, Jerry Houseago, shares his top tips to help consumers stay safe online:
If you change your mind about a purchase
If you buy online, unless it’s bespoke, made to measure, or you’ve broken a digital or hygiene seal, by law you will get an automatic 14-day cooling off period. This starts the day after you receive your order, and there doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.
If you buy something in person, shops aren’t legally required to accept returns for unwanted goods. Despite this, the shop may choose to have its own returns policy. If it does, they must honour it, so it’s worth checking your receipt.
If you’re worried your purchase is faulty
If something’s gone wrong with an item you’ve bought, you may be entitled to a refund. You’ll have legal rights if you unwittingly bought an item that is broken or damaged, unusable, not what was advertised or doesn’t match the seller’s description.
You’ll have to move quickly, as you only have 30 days to return something that's faulty with the guarantee of getting your money back. Your rights don’t end after 30 days, though after this period the retailer doesn’t necessarily have to refund you, instead they have the option of repairing or replacing the faulty product.
If you’re worried about scams
Be careful not to end up with a counterfeit item. Secure websites should start “https” and have a padlock symbol in the taskbar. Be wary of spelling or grammar mistakes, and companies that don’t provide an address.
Also seek out reviews of the seller from other buyers as these can help you decide whether or not you trust the seller. If there is a lot of negative feedback from other people, it’s often a sign that something’s not right.
If you’re worried that something you’ve seen online might be a scam, you can get help from the Citizens Advice Scams Action service.
If there’s a problem with your Black Friday or Cyber Monday delivery
With more people buying online, more people are experiencing delivery problems. Just under half (47%) of UK adults have had a parcel delivery problem since the first lockdown in March.
If you bought something to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you. If the seller used a delivery company, they should chase the company to find out what’s happened to your order - it’s not your responsibility.
Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact them and ask where your order is. Be careful in selecting safe places; if you nominate a safe place and the parcel is stolen you might have lost the right to a replacement.
Graham O'Malley Debt Expert at Citizens Advice, shares his advice to keeping within your budget:
“At this time of year many people may feel the pressure to part with their money.
“With the uncertainty that this year has brought, it’s important that anyone thinking about turning to credit or taking out a loan to help pay for purchases understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back.
“If you are struggling with your finances, it is important to do something about it as soon as possible. You can get free debt and money advice from Citizens Advice to find a way forward and avoid spiralling debts.”
Spend time shopping around, researching what deals are on offer and getting advice.
Always look at the total amount you will have to repay when borrowing money. A shorter repayment period may be better than a slightly lower Annual Percentage Rate (APR) amount.
Take care when looking at buy-now-pay-later deals. It might seem like a good option but you'll need to make sure you pay on time in future. If you don't these deals can be very expensive. Even if the deal is interest-free, you should still check that you’ll be able to pay it off in the time period, if not it could damage your credit rating.
Never borrow money on the spur of the moment. Think about payment options beforehand. Work out your budget and stick to it so that you can afford the repayments.
Notes to editors
Citizens Advice Consumer Service saw 124,167 cases regarding online shopping between 1 January 2020 and 18 November 2020. During the same period in 2020 the Service saw just over 74,000 cases.
Figures relating to problems with delivery derive from Citizens Advice commissioned polling. Citizens Advice commissioned Yonder Data Solutions to carry out a survey of 2029 18+ UK adults between 23 October to 25 October 2020. Fieldwork was carried out online.
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