The UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) is advising UK consumers to follow its Christmas shopping hints to reduce the risk of becoming one of its post-Christmas statistics. It wants UK consumers to become more confident Christmas shoppers!

Every year after Christmas, the UK ECC receives complaints about Christmas gifts – either about presents that don’t work, aren’t what was ordered or worse still, simply don’t arrive.

Andy Allen, Service Director at the UK ECC, said: “It’s undeniably true that not everyone is as reliable as Santa! Christmas can be a busy and stressful time and if consumers are unlucky, they can find themselves indulging in an unwanted and unhealthy portion of gift-stress in the lead-up to and on Christmas day itself. Our database shows that we get an influx of complaints about Christmas goods in the first three months of each year, and obviously that’s bad news for UK consumers, especially where disappointment is caused by gifts not arriving in time.

“So this Christmas we are encouraging UK consumers to take extra precautions for a stress-reduced Christmas – November certainly isn’t too early to start thinking about buying your Christmas gifts.”

There are now only 42 shopping days left to Christmas 2019!

The UK ECC advises when buying Christmas gifts online:

  • confirm with the seller that your order will arrive before Christmas
  • goods should be delivered within 30 days, unless a fixed delivery date is agreed
  • if you need to receive a product by a specific time, make a written request to the trader before making the purchase and await confirmation that your request can be accommodated
  • if you are buying goods costing more than £100 you could pay on your UK credit card. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the credit card provider may be jointly responsible (along with the seller) for resolving any problems
  • when buying anything from a distance (online, email, phone or post), the Consumer Contracts Regulations (which came into force on 13 June 2014) mean that consumers have a 14 calendar day cooling-off period, starting as soon as an order is placed and ending 14 days after the goods are received. During this time the contract can be cancelled for any reason, including a change of mind
  • consumers must notify the trader of the cancellation and can then expect to receive a reimbursement within 14 days. Unless otherwise stated in the terms and conditions, the return fee is payable by the consumer.
  • if your goods turn out to be faulty you may have the right to a repair or replacement
  • the E-Commerce Directive dictates minimum levels of information that a web trader based within Europe must provide to consumers for online purchases, including the name of the trader and geographical address plus email address. An acknowledgement of receipt of the consumer’s order must also be sent

If the worst does happen and you find yourself suffering gift-stress - either a present you ordered didn’t arrive, maybe the trader sent something else instead or perhaps the present arrived but didn’t work, there are several things you can do.

Andy said: “If things go wrong for you in the gift-buying arena at Christmas, there are several things you can do to put things right.

“If there’s a problem with your purchase and you’ve used your credit card to buy goods costing more than £100, section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 may mean that the credit card company is equally responsible (along with the seller) for resolving any problems. This is free legal protection provided when you buy goods or services with credit cards (including store credit cards) and finance agreements (for items such as cars and household goods).”

It’s worth noting that in order to use section 75:

  • the goods must be priced at over £100 but under £30,000
  • it applies when you’ve paid the trader direct, creating what’s known as a 3-party arrangement
  • the full amount doesn’t need to be paid on the credit card

Section 75 applies if the item you purchased has not been delivered, has become faulty or not met the description you were told about. It can be used if the trader has gone out of business.

Andy said: "And of course, you can always contact the UK European Consumer Centre for free advice and support. You can trust our consumer advisers to put as much effort into helping you as many people put into planning Christmas."

UK consumers are continuing to use the UK ECC in their thousands against a backdrop of continued uncertainty created by Brexit. Earlier this year, the UK ECC’s annual report showed that more than 15,000 UK consumers turned to the service for help in 2018.

Andy added: “We are recognised as one of the most prolific centres on the European Consumer Centre Network and our future has been assured at least until the end of 2020. Currently we are co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the European Commission, but we have been given a commitment from the Government that the UK European Consumer Centre will continue to operate at least until the end of next year.

"The service has an uncertain future after that, given Brexit ambiguity. But for now, we’re still here and we’re still helping.”