Case reference: CRE-E/27913
Complainant: OFT own initiative inivestigation
Issue: Non-delivery of goods and failure to provide refunds.
Legal instruments: Enterprise Act 2002 ('the EA'), Breach of Contract, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 ('the UTCCRs'), Sale of Goods Act 1979 ('the SGA'), Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 ('the CPRs'), Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 ('the DSRs'), The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 ('the ECRs')
Summary of work
On 25 May 2012, the OFT obtained undertakings from the operator of several websites who failed to supply goods or refunds in a timely fashion, which in the OFT's view, may be in breach of UK consumer protection legislation.
This investigation was opened by the OFT on its own-initiative following over 60 complaints received by Southend-on-Sea Trading Standards about the trading practices of The Online Shopping Company which was selling a variety of goods, including beer brewing kits, clocks, basket cases and golf equipment via several operated websites (the-Online-Shopping-Company.co.uk,the-online-homebrew-company.co.uk, the-online-basket-company.co.uk, the-online-clock-company.co.uk, the-online-beer-company.co.uk, the-online-golf-company.co.uk, the-online-picnic-company.co.uk, artisanbeers.co.uk, brew-it-yourself.co.uk, mrmailroom.co.uk).
As a result of the investigation, the OFT considered that on the
evidence before it, which included consumer complaints and interviews
conducted by both the OFT and Southend-on-Sea Trading Standards, the
operator of these websites had persistently failed to supply goods or to
provide a refund after payment had been taken, or to allow cancellation
rights to be validly exercised.
In light of this evidence, the OFT formed the view that The Online Shopping Company may be operating in breach of consumer protection legislation likely to harm the collective interests of consumers, including the following alleged breaches:
- failure to supply goods in accordance with Section 29(3) of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SOGA) which implies that in the absence of express agreement, the seller is bound to send those goods within a reasonable time and Regulation 19(1) of the Distance Selling Regulations 2000 (the 'DSRs'), which state that, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, a distance contract shall be performed within 30 days beginning with the day after the day the consumer submits an order
- failure to comply with consumers' requests to cancel the contracts, following cancellation in accordance with Regulations 10 and 11(2) of the DSRs
- failure to refund consumers following their requests to cancel the contract in a timely manner in accordance with Regulation 14 of the DSRs
- failure to make available a means of rapid contact with consumers in a direct and effective manner, as required by Regulation 6(1)(c) of The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, and
- engaging in misleading actions in respect of the availability of the product to be purchased and also the delivery of the product in accordance with advertised delivery timescales, contrary to Regulation 3(4)(a) of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
As required under the Enterprise Act 2002, the OFT engaged in consultation with the operator of these websites, to ensure that the identified infringements were not continued or repeated. Following this consultation the main director of the company operating the websites signed undertakings to comply with the law. These include an undertaking to refund the affected consumers and ensure that future orders are delivered on time.
During the investigation, the company went into liquidation in March 2012 and the OFT contacted the liquidator directly to advise that some consumers' claims with the company were still outstanding. Consumers who purchased goods via one the websites operated by the trader were also advised to contact the liquidators directly. The undertaking will apply to subsequent businesses which the director is involved with.
Having secured these Undertakings from the main trading operator, the OFT has now closed its investigation into this matter.
- Undertakings (pdf 544Kb)