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ACCC War On Internet Retail

By Oonagh Reidy | Tuesday | 04/06/2013

Consumer watchdog forces retailers to clean up their act online

"Several" online retailers have clarified terms and conditions of sale that could mislead consumers, after the ACCC comes down hard on Internet trading. 

The consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, backed by international consumer protection agencies kicked off an internet sweep focusing on the fine print in online shopping, last year. 

The watchdog said it reviewed 450 online shopping sites terms and conditions that had "ambiguous" T&C's and identified a "small group that were mostly likely to confuse shoppers," about their consumer rights. 

Nine businesses made changes to their online terms to provide greater clarity, after contact by the ACCC. 

An ACCC spokesperson refused to comment when asked by CN about the identity of the websites reviewed, but said they were both big and small companies, noting a "small number" did not cooperate with the watchdog on some minor infringements. 

The internet sweep was organised by the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network, and comes as online retail grows in Australia, valued at $13.3 billion or 6% of traditional bricks and mortar retailing. 

"Online retailers need to provide clear and accurate information about their obligations to consumers if there is a problem with the goods or services they supply," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

"It is important that consumers are not misled into thinking that their consumer rights do not apply when shopping online. "

The ACCC warns it will " continue to monitor online businesses for compliance with Consumer Law and may take enforcement action where businesses do not comply."

The watchdog has also given online shopping tips:

. Only consider buying from online sellers that have a good reputation, have clear processes for solving problems and giving replacements and refunds and display their business registration number, phone and fax numbers and physical address.

. Before buying, check terms and conditions carefully so you know what you're paying for and that there are no hidden costs or restrictions.

. Before you start, ensure your computer, tablet or phone is secure by installing or updating security and anti-virus software.

. Keep copies of all documents, including electronic records of auction bids, item descriptions, emails and receipts in case there is a problem later.. If there is a problem, email the seller outlining the issue and how you want it resolved.

. If you paid by credit card and you did not receive the product or service, contact your bank and ask them to reverse an unauthorised charge.

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