The same rights apply to buying online as if you had bought them in a shop. This type of selling is called “distance selling”, and is regulated by the EU, if the vendor is within the EU. A problem, however, is that you may not be able to identify the Vendor’s physical place of business. Under European legislation traders are required to indicate their geographic address on the website. If you do not feel confident because the address does not seem to be genuine or there is no address at all, it is best not to buy.  It may be difficult to get redress outside the EU.

A common set of consumer rights for consumers are valid no matter where in the EU the goods are purchased, which are enforceable for at least 2 years from delivery of the goods. If the seller gives you a false or misleading description of something online, you may be entitled to a refund if it doesn’t fit the description when it arrives. Under EU regulations, consumer goods must be ‘in conformity with the contract of sale ‘ and. you should get what you paid for. If the trader fails to deliver the goods within 30 days, you are entitled to a full refund.

Internet auctions are specifically excluded from the Distance Selling Directive. Furthermore, if you are purchasing goods from a private individual rather than a company then the transaction is not covered by consumer legislation. A ‘consumer’ transaction involves a private individual buying goods or services from a seller acting in the course of his business, trade or profession, as opposed to two individuals acting in a private capacity. If you do not know the trader and you are not satisfied that they are based within the EU/EEA, exercise extreme caution.

When using your credit card for online purchases it is advised to check to see if the website is secure. The beginning of the retailer’s Internet address will change from ‘http’ to ‘https’ before a purchase is made using a secure connection. There should also be a padlock symbol (security icon) on the bottom right of the web page. Always notify your credit card company immediately if you suspect fraudulent behaviour. The European Consumer agency website has excellent practical advice on how to protect yourself when buying online and will deal with complaints.