OFT outlines strategy to protect consumers online

Online shopping: OFT outlines strategy to protect consumers
Online shopping: OFT outlines strategy to protect consumers

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has set out its long term strategy for protecting consumers shopping online in the UK.

The organisation has warned that innovations in online shopping must be met with new measures to tackle complex forms of unfair trading.

Only one in five firms are fully compliant with consumer law for online shopping, according to research undertaken by the OFT.

However, it found that despite UK consumers being the biggest online shoppers in Europe, with a market worth £50bn, one in four people worry more about online shopping than offline.

Overall, one in seven consumers has experienced a problem buying online, such as unfair restrictions on cancellations of orders for products. It revealed that 37% of those consumers are reluctant to buy online again.

The OFT's new national e-consumer protection strategy aims to help prevent misleading selling, deceptive online advertising and malicious practices.

As part of the strategy, the OFT will be providing greater clarity on consumer law in relation to online shopping and empower consumers to ensure they know their rights.

It will be working more closely with the police and Trading Standards Services to share intelligence when mounting investigations, which affect large numbers of online consumers.

The OFT will also be extending its relationship with businesses, to raise awareness about consumers’ online rights.

Barney Wyld, senior director for strategy and communications, at OFT said: "The UK has a vibrant internet economy, with strong online participation and generally high levels of trust."

"However the way we shop online is constantly changing and organisations protecting consumers need to be highly responsive to emerging or complex online shopping problems."

The full strategy was developed in consultation with major online brands, consumer and business groups and non-profit organisations.

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