A friend of mine was scammed before Christmas by a fake shopping website that offered branded goods at fantastic prices, and I’ll share a few things that are worthwhile to know so that it doesn’t happen to you.
The website has now disappeared, but I had the chance to look at its pages before it vanished in the ether. It was supposedly a UK website with a co.uk address, but the information on the site broke several British online trading laws. From a bit of online research, I believe that the company was based in China. Unfortunately my pal didn’t know this, he ordered a pair of branded boots for about £50 and received a fake pair of Adidas trainers.
He paid by debit card and under the Chargeback scheme, if a trader does not fulfil certain contractual obligations (such as, in this case, not supplying the correct items) your bank can request the money back from the seller’s merchant bank to which the payment was made. My friend made a claim through his bank and got all his money back.
How can you tell if an online trader is legitimate or not? Firstly, check for reviews on Trustpilot and other review sites. Although the website that tried to scam my pal is gone, I have found a similar one that appears to be run by the same people here and it has dreadful reviews on Trustpilot.
It is a legal requirement for any UK company that trades online that they must provide their business name, contact details and address. If you look at the scam website, this is nowhere to be found; a contact form is not sufficient.
You also have certain legal rights to cancel an order placed online. The online store that I have linked above does state that you have a right to return the goods, but looking at the Trustpilot reviews for these companies it seems that they have no intention of refunding your money, even if they send you the wrong goods.
Look carefully at the terms and conditions; even though this masquerades as a UK website, they are clearly not written by a native English speaker. This is a classic:
“If the problem about the item is not big enough, please do not make fuss about it. We will be gratitude if you take care of it by yourself. And for the unfit size problem, to send it away as a gift is a good choice and also can save your precious time and avoid the unnecessary waste.”
In other words (I think, from trying to work out its meaning), if it’s the wrong size, give it to someone else! Great customer service, don’t you think? (Not!)
So, in summary;
- If it’s not a company that you know and trust, read its T&Cs and company details carefully.
- Check reviews.
- Know your consumer rights and redress.
- Try to pay where possible by Paypal or credit card; it is easier to get your money back if things go wrong.
- If in doubt – shop elsewhere.
Photo credit – Alex Proimos, reproduced under creative commons license, https://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334