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Press releases 2007 -

Internet auction sites agree to highlight consumer rights

155/07    14 November 2007

Following talks with the OFT, a number of internet auction sites have agreed to include and/or update information for consumers about their rights when buying through their sites.

Online auction sites eBay, eBid, CQout, QXL and Tazbar will now include advice and links on their sites to inform consumers of their rights under the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs). They have also agreed to inform businesses that use their site as a sales channel of their legal obligations under the E-Commerce Regulations (ECRs).

In June this year the OFT published the findings of its Internet Shopping market study (pdf 1.17 mb).

The study found that some businesses trading through online auctions were failing to identify themselves as businesses despite 60 per cent of online auction shoppers wanting to know whether they were buying from a business. Shoppers who buy from a business using the 'buy now' option on an auction site have the right to return items under the DSRs for many products.

Steve Lisseter, Head of Internet Shopping Study Team at the OFT, said:

'We welcome the efforts made by these online auction sites to raise awareness of consumers' rights, and we are also very encouraged by the work they are doing to ensure that businesses using their sites are fully aware of their legal obligations.'

For clear practical advice on consumer rights when shopping online, and for help when buying from online auction sites, consumers can contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or visit the Consumer Direct website.


1. When consumers buy goods or services over the internet from a business seller based in the EU, the DSRs provide cancellation rights in certain circumstances. The DSRs generally apply to fixed price sales through auction sites (although there are some exceptions). The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform consider that the DSRs do not apply to internet auctions of the type considered here although, as yet, there is no UK case law to confirm the position.

2. When cancellation rights apply, shoppers can change their mind and cancel a purchase for any reason provided they do so within seven working days beginning with the day after the day the consumer receives the goods (the period may be longer if the supplier has not provided specified information in writing or in another durable medium, such as a printable email). Consumers should take reasonable care of any items while in their possession and may have to pay the costs of return carriage.

3. Where the DSRs apply, businesses must provide their identity and (where the contract requires payment in advance) their address, together with information on cancellation rights in good time prior to the conclusion of the contract.

4. The OFT has published tips for consumers buying online, which are available on several auctions sites and price comparison sites. The tips can also be found on the Consumer Direct website.

5. The OFT has published advice for businesses on the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs) and other laws which apply to selling on the internet.

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