A global survey shows that many internet traders are still not following guidelines or even the law and shoppers can't shop with confidence.
With a few notable exceptions, loyalty to internet traders is notoriously low. There is no inertia loyalty to help: while it may take effort to travel from one store to another, to switch on the internet needs just a click of the mouse. With this in mind, it would seem that building loyalty should be uppermost in internet traders' minds. Sadly (once again with some notable exceptions), it doesn't seem as if it is.
Sites fail to deliver
Internet shoppers still can't shop with confidence, according to a new survey by Consumers International, a global federation of more than 260 consumer organisations in 120 countries. Many sites still fail to deliver: 6% of the goods ordered never arrived (although in six cases the goods were charged for); 9% of returns were never refunded and, even when a refund was received, it took more than 30 days to be credited.
There were also clear failures to comply with best practice cases or, in some cases, the law:
· One in five sites failed to give a clear indication of the cost of the transaction
· Less than half of the EU sites informed customers of their (legal) right to withdraw from a contract
· Many sites failed to give information about key terms and conditions (for example, returns policy)
· Over one in three did not make clear to which countries they would ship goods.
Call for action
Consumers International is now calling for governments to strengthen guidelines for consumer protection in e-commerce, to monitor and "name and shame" sites that repeatedly fail to comply, or to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and obligations.
It also wants the business community to comply with consumer protection legislation in the consumer's country of residence and to, through business associations, to educate online traders about consumer protection and guidelines.
Over 400 orders for goods and services (DVDs, clothing, computer accessories, food and drink and hotel rooms) were placed by researchers from 15 consumer organisations in 14 countries in late 2000 and early 2001.
The report Should I Buy? Shopping online 2001: An international comparative study of electronic commerce is available at www.consumersinternational.org