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​Know your rights when buying online

News   •   Nov 28, 2018 11:16 GMT

More than half of consumers don’t know they have fewer rights when buying from a private seller, compared to business purchases, according to analysis of online marketplace reports to Citizens Advice conducted in the last year.

The advice comes as part of National Consumer Week - a nationwide campaign conducted by the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP) which highlights key online markets issues faced by UK consumers and how to seek redress, and runs from Monday 26 November until Sunday 2 December.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has produced an in-depth advice video with important guidance for consumers on buying from online marketplaces.

With a £154bn spend in the UK online in 2016 and 76% of people using online marketplaces it is becoming increasingly important for consumers to know their rights, and for businesses to be aware of their responsibilities.

In the past four years calls to Citizens Advice about problems with purchases relating to online marketplaces increased by 35%, with 50% of people reporting encountering problems when trying to seek resolution. Over 13,000 people reported issues last year with an average loss of £215.

Trading standards advise the following:

If you’re buying from an online trader your rights are the same as if you were buying from any other online store.

You normally have up to 14 days after receiving your goods to change your mind and get a full refund.

If there is a problem with your item within the first 30 days from when you’ve bought it, you could get a refund, replacement or repair.

If it can’t be repaired or replaced, then during the first 6 months in most cases you’re entitled to a full refund.

What can I do if I have a problem?

Contact the seller to try to resolve the issue.

Check the online marketplaces’ terms and conditions. These will sometimes offer you more protections.

If the seller arranged delivery, and the item hasn’t turned up or was delivered to the wrong location, it’s the seller’s legal responsibility to sort out the issue.

Some traders belong to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme, which means they offer a way to solve your problem without going to court.

What if I have a problem with a private seller?

If you’re buying online from an individual seller, on sites such as ebay or sale or swap sites the principle of ‘buyer beware’ applies.

Goods have to be how they were described to you by the seller, but the seller doesn’t have to disclose any faults.

The seller can’t misrepresent goods though – for example claiming something used is brand new.

Try to resolve the issue by contacting the seller directly first, but if you can’t:

Check whether the online marketplace has their own protection and dispute resolution systems.

Consider making a claim to the court – this is sometimes called a ‘small claim’.

Residents who believe that a trader is not complying with the law should report it to Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454-040-506 or visit


Issued: 28 November 2018.