Tips for Christmas shopping from Trading Standards

Published: 9 December 2020

man with laptop and credit card

Online shopping is expected to make up a third of all retail sales over the festive period.

Christmas sees the highest retail sales of the year, with online sales expected to make up a third of all shopping done over the festive period.

Derby City Council’s Trading Standards team have already issued a warning for buying toys from online marketplaces. Now they want to remind Derby residents of potential risks to look out for, and provide a reminder of their consumer rights with these 12 tips for shopping in the lead up to Christmas.

Internet Shopping
This year, it’s likely more of us will do our Christmas shopping online. This can have its pitfalls and you may find that you are using a bogus site which takes your money but gives you nothing in return, or you may inadvertently buy fake, low quality, dangerous goods.

There are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself from problems. Research the website. Does it display a geographical address and phone number in the UK where you can contact the trader? If you are paying for goods online using a credit card, check the site is secure by looking for a ‘padlock’ symbol in the browser window. The web address should also start with ‘https//’.

Online Marketplaces
Shoppers may be relying on digital retailers such as Amazon, eBay and Ali Express more than ever, however, research from the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) found a number of illegal and dangerous toys for sale.

The BTHA conducted a test on 100 toys from these marketplaces and found that 60% of toys tested had safety failures while 86% were illegal to sell in the UK. This marks an increase on last years findings of 22% and 58% respectively.

Meanwhile, In 2019, Which? found that almost half of Christmas tree lights sold online were unsafe and that 66% of electrical products purchased on online failed crucial safety tests. Trading Standards recommend that you only buy products from a reputable source.

When buying Christmas presents, ensure that you only buy items that are safe for use. Trading Standards recommend that you look for a CE mark on goods such as toys and electrical items. These prove that they were manufactured in line with European safety standards.

All toys must be marked with an age restriction, which assess risks such as choking hazards, and you should always follow the age recommendations when gifting a toy to a child.

Counterfeit alcohol also makes a regular appearance in markets at this time of year. If you see alcohol sold at a bargain price, make sure you check for clues such as misspelling or poorly attached labels.

If we receive a gift that we don’t like, we don’t automatically have the right to return it for a refund. In most cases, only the person who purchased the item can return it. The shop only has to offer a refund if the item is not as described or is below satisfactory quality. Some high street stores do offer a more generous returns policy, but you should always check first.

Over Christmas, many of us find that we have overspent and struggle to manage our bills in the New Year. The offer of quick and easy ‘pay-day’ loans may be tempting but can have consequences. If you're having difficulty managing your finances, Trading Standards recommends that you should seek help.

Support on managing debt can is available on the Citizens Advice website, or from a debt charity such as Step Change, which offers a free debt helpline on 0800 138 1111 .

If you are a Derby City resident, you may be eligible to receive free, confidential and independent advice on financial problems from Derby Advice. Find out if you are eligible on the Derby City Council website.

No Refunds
Some shops or on-line retailers may tell you that they do not offer refunds on discounted items. However, consumers do have the right to return goods to a shop for a remedy if the item does not meet its description. A consumer is also able to return an item to an on-line retailer for a refund up to 14 days after delivery, even if there is nothing wrong with the item.

The quicker you return an item to a shop, the easier it can be to sort out any problems. You will need to have the receipt or some other form of proof of purchase to show where and when the item was bought.

Gold Selling

Gold has become an increasingly valuable commodity in recent years and people may be considering selling unwanted jewellery to raise extra cash for Christmas. Unfortunately, some traders try to take advantage of consumers and pay less than the gold is worth. Trading Standards recommends that anyone considering selling their gold chooses their gold buying company carefully. Use a reputable company and ask to see the gold weighed so that you can be clear you are being paid fairly for what you are selling.

If you have any concerns about any item you have bought or received and would like some advice on your consumer rights you can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 11 33 or report them to Trading Standards.

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