But that is about to change. Is it new regulation? No –nothing has changed, but the implementation of the rules has.
It has been easy for customers to ‘misunderstand’ their rights when buying from online retailers. In fact some retailers could be accused of misleading their customers.
However the office of Fair Trading is clamping down on these retailers to ensure they communicate and deliver their obligations.
How will this affect the High Street? Well it levels the playing field slightly. The Distance Selling Regulations insist customers can have a refund even if the product is not faulty. A customer has seven days to request a refund. In the past, even if they did allow returns of non-faulty product, an online retailer would have strict rules such as “in original packaging” or “in original condition” however this could be in breach of allowing a customer to
inspect the goods. In addition some online retailers have not made it clear that
they must refund the original delivery costs. If an item is faulty they have to
refund the delivery and the return delivery costs. They cannot charge any
administration fees or re-stocking fees.
An online retailer needs to pass these costs on to customers in other ways. This will push the selling prices up and reduce the gap that can exist between High Street and online.
Add this to the online retailers being pushed by their lenders to turn market share into profits and the perks of low prices, free delivery etc will start to be limited especially as fuel prices increase.
Will this stop us buying online? Will this alone be the re-birth of the High Street? It certainly will not, but the battle will not be on price alone and local retailers have a lot to offer. Independent retailers who meet the demands for a commercial, customer focused, social networking shop can compete with online and will be the foundations of the new evolved High Streets of tomorrow