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UK European Consumer Centre

laptop with various consumer goods going into a basketBuying outside the EU

Many purchases are made over the Internet, some from companies within the UK or even within the EU However, there are a large number of things being purchased from companies further afield.  

Due to the uncertainty of the companies location when buying online it’s worth knowing what to look for to spot where a trader might be based, before you make the purchase.

How can I tell where the company are from?

There is legislation in the EU that puts an obligation on companies to display an address on their website. This can sometimes be found in their terms and conditions or in the contact us section of the website.  

If you are unable to find an address for the company they may well be outside of the EU or they may not be complying with the legislation. 

Its also worth noting that a website ending with domain is not always based in the UK.  A domain can be used by anyone, much in the same way as .com can.  If you’re on a website and unsure about the location of the company it might be worth doing a bit of investigation before you make the purchase.

So what do you do if the company is outside of the EU?

If the items you want are sold by a website based in China, USA or elsewhere in the world you need to consider that if something goes wrong with your purchase you may not have any means of resolving the problem.  
If a company in the UK doesn’t deliver your goods you can take legal action or potentially go to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body, this is the same across the EU.  However, if a company outside of the EU doesn’t deliver your goods you may need to take legal action if the trader unwilling to resolve your complaint, which could prove costly and disproportionate if the goods are of relatively low value. 

Generally there are consumer protection agencies in most countries who could provide advice or assistance  however it may not be possible for a person living outside of the country to use the service they provide.  This will depend on the agency in the country the trader is based.  You can find a list of suitable agencies here FTC consumer protection agencies

It is worth considering the protection offered by either your bank or credit card company for any purchase from a non-EU company. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act you can pursue your credit card company for a refund if there is a breach of contract.

If you receive faulty goods or don’t receive your order at all this can be useful in getting your money back. For Section 75 you have to have paid between £100 and £30,000. A lot of banks also offer protection via a scheme called Chargeback.  Chargeback can be used for items under £100 but there is no legal obligation on the banks to provide this.

Companies like PayPal also offer protection but you should read their terms on this carefully.

If you do have an issue with something purchased outside of the EU you can give us a call on 01268 886690. We may not be able to help you directly but we may be aware of a consumer body that you can take your complaint to.

Contact Us

Please note that we are closed on weekends and UK bank and public holidays.

Telephone Number:

+44(0)1268 886 690 (lines open 9am - 5pm)

Email Address:

To save duplicate cases being created please only send us one email per issue.  If you need to send more please contact us. 

Postal Address:

UK European Consumer Centre
Chartered Trading Standards Institute
1 Sylvan Court
Sylvan Way
Southfields Business Park
SS15 6TH

Please note that the UK European Consumer Centre does not offer a drop-in service.

Fax Number:

+44(0)1268 582 225


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