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UK European Consumer Centre

Buying goods from outside of the EU

Woman in dismay at her broken washing machine leaking on the floorA lot of 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 this uncertainty it’s worth knowing what to look for to spot where a trader might be based, before you make the purchase.

For example, a website ending with 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 looking on the “contact us” or “about us” page.

There is legislation in the EU that puts an obligation on companies to display an address. This can sometimes be found in their terms and conditions.  If you are unable to find and address the company may well be outside of the EU.

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 the limitations of what action can be taken should something go wrong.  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 would need to take legal action if the trader is non-cooperative, which could prove costly and disproportionate if the goods are of relatively low value.

In these situations it is worth considering the protection offered by either your bank or Credit Card 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.

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