The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has joined 40 consumer protection countries from around the world to focus on fine print in online shopping.
The International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) is coordinating an information gathering sweep of the internet, targeting traders using confusing or misleading fine print to avoid their obligation to consumers.
“The theme of this year’s sweep, is ‘I bought what?’ focusing on fine print that some online traders use to avoid their obligations to their customers,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“All too often fine print is used to trap unwary consumers and force them to accept substandard products.”
The ACCC’s Replace, Repair, Refund campaign earlier this year urged consumers to know their rights when it comes to a faulty product or substandard service. The ICPEN internet sweep will focus on how these rights are represented to consumers online and identify tricks used to try to fool consumers into believing such rights do not apply online.
“Too many people are unaware that they have the same rights when shopping online as they do in a bricks and mortar store.” Ms Rickard said.
“If consumers shop in online stores and don’t get what they bargained for, the ACCC has developed tools to help consumers understand their statutory rights so they can get the best outcome”.
The ACCC’s Repair, Replace, Refund Problem Solver is an online tool optimised for smart phones and other mobile devices which walks consumers through the process of seeking a remedy if they did not get what they bargained for.
“Unfortunately, these rights are difficult to enforce outside of Australia, so consumers should be careful and do their homework when shopping in offshore online stores.”
Consumers that believe they are victims of misleading online or scam conduct based overseas are encouraged to report the scam to the international consumer site monitored by ICPEN members, www.econsumer.gov.
The ICPEN Internet sweep is an annual event which coordinates information gathering and enforcement priorities for consumer protection agencies across the globe.
ICPEN’s main objective is to take action to prevent and redress deceptive marketing practices with an international component. Consumers can keep track of what is happening in consumer protection around the world by visiting the ICPEN website at www.icpen.org.
ICPEN also maintains a one-stop complaints portal with information on resolving complaints with overseas traders.