UKICC - complaints about online purchases rise

One of the most noticeable trends from the fourth quarterly data report of 2021 is that 80% of cases received from UK consumers related to purchases made online, an increase from the figure of 70% of the first quarter of 2021.

The 80% includes all online means of purchase – a combination of e-commerce direct from the trader, through booking intermediaries, using internet platforms and via internet auctions – and accounts for 1,581 of the centre’s cases.

Of these online purchases, 55% (875) were purchases made directly from a business and 37% (594) were made through a booking intermediary. The remaining 8% would include internet auctions and internet platforms.

Service Director at the UK International Consumer Centre, Andy Allen, said: “This increase in online shopping shows a change in shopping trends driven by COVID-19.

“Before the pandemic we had fairly significant numbers of on-premises cases, but in the fourth quarter of 2021 we saw a low number of complaints regarding contracts formed on business premises (54), so this is clearly a shift.

“We attribute this change to a reduction in overseas travel due to the pandemic. Whether the shift becomes permanent – as overseas travel slowly resumes – remains to be seen.”

Case study:

UK consumer Mr S and his wife were on holiday in Greece. They booked their flights online direct with the airline and paid using a credit card. On their journey home they were due to take a connecting flight internally within Greece to Athens, but 15 minutes before take-off the flight was cancelled.

The couple were offered a re-booking for the next day but as this would have meant missing their flight back to the UK, they turned this down. Instead, they took a train and a ferry to get to Athens for their flight home.

When they returned to the UK, Mr S tried contacting the airline to ask for his money back for the ferry, train and the unused connecting flight but got nowhere with the complaint.

He then approached the UKICC for help. We assessed the case legally and one of our consumer advisors calculated that not only was the consumer due the refund he had asked for, but that he also qualified for cancellation compensation under Regulation EC 261/2004. We then asked our counterparts in the European Consumer Centre Greece to contact the airline.

The airline explained that the cancellation had been due to an unforeseen technical irregularity and not only refunded the £120 the consumer asked for, but provided £500 compensation.

Mr S said: “Yesterday I received the compensation money owed to me and last week I received my ticket refund. I wanted to write to thank you for your help to get this money back and exercise my consumer rights. When I was trying to speak to the airline, they wouldn't answer my emails or calls which left a feeling of powerlessness as they had left me out of pocket.

“With your help this has been corrected. I am very grateful and I hope that you know that your work makes a massive difference for everyday consumers. Without your help many companies would ignore consumers, so thanks for being there.”