Online shopping sites will be subject to a cyber inquisition over their flouting of basic consumer rights.
For the next 48 hours, thousands of Websites will be scrutinised by 61 consumer protection agencies from over 20 countries.
The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) warned Australian businesses, after a June 2004 survey report, that of the 265 sites which contained terms and conditions, more than half attempted to deny or restrict consumers’ warranty rights or limit liability.
The ACCC’s Deputy Chair, Louise Sylvan, said “Hidden traps online are the official target for the 2006 International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network’s Internet Sweep. Sweep participants, including 10 Australian agencies, will zoom in on the fine print to uncover websites misrepresenting basic consumer rights.
“In 2006 this joint operation, coordinated and led by the ACCC, aims to catch sly businesses using online terms and conditions to exclude statutory rights, add hidden charges at the point of sale and allow sneaky downloads as part of the conditions of sale. For example an online trader may offer a special warranty clause instead of all other warranties, or claim they are not liable for the performance or quality of the goods they sell. In Australia, this is contrary to the Trade Practices Act 1974, as certain implied rights always exist and cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.
“Australian-based traders will have no excuses after previously being advised of their obligations following the release of the ACCC survey paper – Shopping Online: Survey of the top 1000 Australian consumer websites”, she said.
The annual Internet sweep also forms part of the ICPEN’s global Consumer Fraud Prevention Month, which concentrates on stemming the tide of fraudulent and deceptive scams, and claims emerging on the Internet.