OFT Launches Online Tool to Reach Out to Remote Areas

Jack Humphrey, Regulatory journalist
September 18, 2012 /

The Office of Fair Trading has launched new online resources to help internet businesses comply with the law and provide a better service to residents living in remote areas of the UK.

Around half a million people in the UK live in remote areas. A recent OFT report found that while the internet offers opportunities for residents in these areas to access a wider range of suppliers than they can locally, delivery terms and costs are making it difficult for them to gain the best value from the online marketplace.

Earlier this year, during its call for evidence on the challenges facing consumers living in remote communities, the OFT heard from people who were unhappy about delivery costs being presented late on in the buying process, who felt misled by sites that promised ‘free UK delivery’ but imposed shipping charges, or let down by suppliers refusing to deliver to remote locations.

In order to ensure online businesses are meeting their legal obligations to customers in these areas, the OFT has launched a number of new online resources. These advise online businesses that to be compliant with the law, they should:

display delivery charges clearly and early on in the purchasing process
make sure any additional charges imposed on delivery to remote locations are justified and displayed clearly and early on in the purchasing process
check that when the term ‘Free UK Delivery’ is used, it is not misleading, for example if it doesn’t include remote locations
recognise it may take longer to deliver to remote locations and explain this clearly and early on in the purchasing process
only refuse to deliver to remote locations if it is justified by objective criteria, for example additional costs incurred because of the distance
allow customers to return faulty goods for free, and to return unwanted goods that fall within the statutory 7-day cooling off period for free unless customers have been notified in writing that charges would apply

Kyla Brand, OFT Director in Scotland, said: “Many of the half a million people living in remote areas feel they get a raw deal on delivery when shopping online. We are therefore urging online businesses to use our tools to ensure these consumers receive a good level of service that meets the requirements of the law.”

The updated resources, including a new video, are available on the OFT’s Distance Selling hub which provides guidance for retailers and business support organisations on regulations that affect buying and selling goods and services via the internet, phone, mail order, email, interactive TV or text.


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