Black Friday is nearly upon us, with the usual apocalyptic predictions of people getting trampled as consumers rush to get bargains. However, as last year showed, many people prefer to get their bargains online, rather than brave the crowds.
However, the legal protection available for consumers does not get reduced along with the prices. Businesses still need to comply with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 in all cases of sales to consumers (whether online or in person) and will need to comply with the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 when selling online.
While the Consumer Rights Act essentially covers defective goods, the Distance Selling Regulations do not and can be used by consumers to return items which they have decided they do not want, including where they have made an impulsive purchase of a cut price item. While this right to return goods for a refund is time limited, that time limit can be extended indefinitely where certain procedural steps are not taken or certain information is not given to the consumer. This can seriously trip some businesses up. One German company a few years ago found themselves having to refund a laptop which had been used by the consumer for two years before being returned - this is purely because they had not complied with the Regulations.
Businesses who want to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday euphoria to attract customers may find themselves with a bit of a legal hangover afterwards if they don't comply with the rules.
On Black Friday we're expected to spend about £2bn this year, with over half of this forecast to be spent online, according to the retail association IMRG and SimilarWeb. And it's not just Black Friday. Cyber Monday has emerged as a way of persuading consumers to find the same online bargains a few days later. Over the four-day Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, shoppers are set to spend £4bn, predicts credit card provider MBNA.