The online shopping revolution has brought continence to the lives of millions, but it’s also created a whole new series of problems – James Walker, founder of free customer complaints site Resolver.co.uk, explains what’s going wrong now and how to stay safe
For the first time ever, complaints about online shopping eclipsed ones about shopping on the high street.
What’s driving these complaints? Well mainly it’s problems with faulty goods, misrepresentation and terrible customer service.
Refunds and incorrectly debited cash also figure quite highly with a worrying increasing number of complaints about goods that were debited but not ordered.
But there’s more to this than meets the eye.
We’ve also seen an increase in over 200% of complaints about delivery companies.
So not only are people having a problem with online shops, they’re also having problems with the way that goods get sent to them.
We’ve all heard complaints about package deliveries in recent years – from items left in bins to overstretched and underpaid employees breaking items in transit.
Other ways shops have let people down
We received 2,627 complaints about store credit – or ‘buy now, pay later’. In the past lots of people made purchases using catalogues – where the “per week” price was listed next to the full one.
That, in fact, was a loan – where you ended up paying a lot more than if you could afford the item outright.
Flash forward to 2019 and shop credit has undergone a massive transformation.
High-interest credit has now been repackaged as a ‘lifestyle’ choice, where shops give you lots of ways to pay to fit your busy lives.
Look a little closer though and those choices are the same old interest-free credit traps from previous times.
Shop credit works on the basis that we think we’re going to pay things off while there’s no interest, but then forget, have a cash flow problem or pay the minimum assuming (wrongly) that it’ll clear the debt in time.
The vast majority of us won’t, despite our best intentions, leaving us with debts and 40% interest rates or more.
Beating the new rip offs
In just three years, these new areas of complaint have exploded as we’ve evolved to the convenience of shopping online and shops have evolved to get us to keep spending.
This means that a savvy shopper needs keep on top of the new tricks of the trade to avoid being caught out.
If you’re buying something online now, then here are the top five things to bear in mind.
Don’t assume that discounted price is the best one available – There are loads of free price tracker apps you can use to see how prices for goods and services fluctuate over the years. So be cynical and don’t think that 30% off is always a good deal.
Beware of shop credit – You could find yourself saddled with huge interest on your purchases. Watch out for new forms of credit agreement like ‘try before you buy deals’ that will start billing you if you don’t return goods within a short period of time.
Nothing free requires your card details – Watch out for ‘subscription traps’ where you trial products for a short period for free. We’re seeing massive increases in complaints about these online cons, both legitimate and completely fraudulent ones.
Pay direct and by credit card for goods over £100 – This gives you the most wide-ranging consumer rights protection. But pay that bill off each month!
It’s the obligation of the retailer to get the goods in to your hands – Parcels left in places or with people you haven’t authorised don’t count as delivered – so push back on the retailer. It’s their responsibility to sort things out.