Survey highlights consumer confusion surrounding online returns and Distance Selling Regulations

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The latest eCustomerServiceIndex results from eDigitalResearch have highlighted a major gap in consumer knowledge surrounding the Distance Selling Regulations and online returns. Of the 2,000 online consumers surveyed, less than half (42%) said that they had heard of the Distance Selling Regulations before, yet even these struggled to correctly identify their consumer rights under the Act.

Of those that were aware of the regulations, just two thirds (69%) rightly said that they were entitled to cancel an online order within seven days. 30% also correctly identified that if they return an item, they are entitled to a full refund including any standard delivery costs. However worryingly, 41% wrongly said that they should not receive a refund for any standard delivery costs when returning an online purchase, highlighting a major lack of consumer knowledge when it comes to what is involved with the Distance Selling Regulations.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced at the end of 2012 that it was going to start coming down hard on those online retailers that are currently not conforming to the current rules and regulations surrounding internet orders and online returns.

The Distance Selling Regulations clearly state that when someone returns an online order, they are entitled to a full refund, including any standard delivery costs. Yet 40% of those surveyed claim that they’ve had a situation in the past where their delivery costs weren’t refunded to them when returning an item. And an outstanding 88% of these were told by retailers that their delivery costs were not refundable.

5% of those surveyed have had a return rejected in the past and almost a quarter (22%) of these were told it was because the item was not in its original packaging, despite this not being a required condition under the Distance Selling Regulations, especially when consumers have the right to reasonably inspect a product. An additional one third (33%) were told it was because the item was not in its original condition, damaged or misused.

Over quarter (27%) of online shoppers have encountered some sort of hidden charge when ordering products online, despite retailers having to clearly identify all costs to consumers. Of that 27%, over half (52%) claimed it was because the full delivery cost was not plainly stated when placing the order. Another 37% said it was because of credit card fees.

Derek Eccleston, Commercial Director at eDigitalResearch, commented, “Not only is consumer knowledge surrounding their rights on Distance Selling Regulations worryingly low, but it also appears that a lot of retailers aren’t 100% complying with the rules and regulations. With the OFT’s recent announcement, it is important that all online retailers are clear on what they need to be conforming to, whilst OFT officials should consider looking at attempting to increase consumer knowledge. Online shopping has practically become an everyday occurrence for some consumers and is a trend that is only going to grow in the future with the introduction of smartphones and portable computer devices, such as tablets. It is therefore important that shoppers are clear on what they are entitled to, particularly around the right to cancel, the ability to reasonably inspect a product and a refund for their standard delivery”.


For more information please contact Lisa Bonczyk on lisa(dot)b(at)edigitalresearch(dot)com or call +44(0)1489 772920.

Survey information
The eCustomerServiceIndex (eCSI) survey of 2,000 consumers was conducted between the 11th and 15th January 2013 using a nationally representative sample from a consumer omnibus panel.

About eDigitalResearch
eDigitalResearch are insight specialists with an expertise in online and multichannel business. We bring passionate researchers, technical experts and art designers together all under one roof to work with clients and create bespoke insight programmes. eDigitalResearch not only offer unrivalled digital research expertise and insight support, but state-of-the-art technology and innovation that works seamlessly with your systems and data across customer touch points. Our products and services help you to reach your customers no matter how they interact with businesses.

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Lisa Bonczyk
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