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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 13:19 GMT
Online shopping: Your rights
Money Talk
By Penny Boys
Office of Fair Trading executive director

Penny Boys

What legal protection can you expect when purchasing goods online? A consumer watchdog explains shoppers rights.

People are increasingly turning to the internet as a convenient form of shopping - no fighting against the crowds, no pounding the streets to shop around, no battling for the last size 12 on the rail and no queues.

When you shop online you get extra protection so you can have confidence in buying goods or services with no face-to-face contact with the seller.

Cooling-off period

One of the main rights you have when shopping online is a cooling-off period - at least seven days after receiving the goods.

If your credit or debit card is used fraudulently to shop online, you can cancel the payment and the card issuer must refund any money to your account

This means you have the unconditional right to cancel your order if you change your mind unless the goods you have ordered are made to a personal specification, or you have removed the packaging from CDs, DVDs, videos and software.


If you do change you mind for whatever reason within the cooling-off period you are entitled to a full refund - including any delivery charges (although you may have to pay the cost of returning the goods).

The seller must refund all money within 30 days.

Credit card protection

If your credit or debit card is used fraudulently to shop online, you can cancel the payment and the card issuer must refund any money to your account.

In addition, if you use your credit card to buy an item that costs more than 100 both the supplier and the credit card provider have the same liability to you.

This means that if the supplier goes bust before you receive the goods, you can make the same claim against the credit card provider that you would have made against the supplier.


Unless otherwise stated, delivery should be within 30 days.

If the order is not delivered within this time, you can cancel the order.

Key facts

Before you buy online you are entitled to certain information including:

  • A description of the goods or services
  • The price including any taxes
  • Arrangements for payment
  • Delivery costs
  • Delivery arrangements
  • Name of the company (and address if payment is in advance).

After you buy

After you have placed an order you should receive written confirmation of the order.

Online shoppers have the statutory right to a seven-day cooling-off period as they do not have a chance to see the goods before purchase

You should also be given written confirmation of how you can cancel the order, a complaints address and details of any after-sales services/guarantees.

Shoppers' rights

When you shop online you still have the same protection under the Sale of Goods Act that you have when you shop on the High Street.

All goods sold should be of satisfactory quality, fit for their purpose and as described.

If goods are faulty or wrongly described you are entitled to a refund provided you return the goods within a reasonable time.

Some High Street shops offer a goodwill policy which allows you to return goods if you change your mind or have bought the wrong size.

However this is not a statutory right.

Sale items

You have the same rights even if the goods you buy are in a sale.

However be careful of items in the sale that have slight defects.

The seller is not obliged to give you your money back if you complain about defects that were pointed out prior to purchase.

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