Online shopping: Your rights


03/05/2018 An obsession with online boutiques, a very busy schedule or a strong dislike for queues – whatever your reason is for online shopping, you should know that you have rights!

The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) together with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) protect you when it comes to online purchases and agreements.

Your right to disclosure

Whenever you make an online purchase, you should be given full and clear information relating to:

  • The terms of your agreement
  • The attributes or a description of the goods you are purchasing
  • The full price of the goods including additional costs such as delivery charges and taxes
  • The expected day and/or time of delivery
  • Return, refund and exchange policy

In addition to the disclosure of information, the retailer must give you an opportunity to review the entire purchase’s details including any applicable additional costs, add or remove items from your cart and cancel the transaction altogether before you place the order.

If the retailer fails to disclose this information or give you the opportunity to review, alter or cancel your order before checkout, you may return any goods delivered as a result within 14 days of receipt to the retailer for a full refund. You will however be liable for the cost to return those items.

Cooling-off period

You are entitled to a 7 day cooling off period after you receive goods that you bought online. Within that period you may return the items to the retailer at no penalty. You will however be liable for the cost of returning the goods. The retailer must refund you within 30 days of the date of cancellation. Note that this cooling off period won’t apply to perishables like food, items like magazines and newspapers or highly customised goods.


If you didn’t get to inspect the goods on arrival and aren’t happy with your delivery upon inspection because it is not what you wanted, doesn’t fit the purpose for which it was bought, looks different from what you expected, or in the case of clothing, it is too big or too small, you can return it to the retailer without penalty within 10 business days after delivery.

The difference between the cooling off period and a normal return, is that the former is shorter and does not require you to have a reason for the return other than you simply not wanting it anymore. The retailer’s return policy should contain information that may help you understand this better.

Fortunately for consumers, most stores have a 30 day return policy even for change of mind returns and in instances where you did get to examine the goods upon delivery. These terms will however differ for different retailers so make sure you are well aware of the return policy for the retailer you are purchasing from.

Implied warranty

Goods you buy online, like goods you’d buy from a store, are subject to the CPA’s implied six month warranty should the goods fail or become defective within six months of delivery. Remember, according to the CPA, a defect reduces the item’s capability to be perform or be used for its intended purpose. It is also completely up to you to decide whether you’d like a refund or for the item to be repaired or replaced.

What you can do to help yourself

Do your research – ask a friend or do a quick search on the internet or social media for reviews or news on the retailer you want to buy from to see what other people’s experiences were like. There are many unscrupulous people that run fake online shops as a way to collect information and defraud unsuspecting shoppers.

It is always worthwhile to read the fine print and/or Terms and Conditions. You have a right to disclosure but you also have the responsibility to ensure you not only read but understand the information you are provided with. If something is unclear, ask the retailer for clarification.

Finally, if it feels wrong, it probably is! Regularly read up on your rights so you know what to do when things go south. And when you do realise your rights have been infringed on, speak up – Resolver is here to help you do just that!

Nothing good comes without its share of bad, and online shopping is no exception. But Acts like the ECTA and CPA try to ensure that the impact on the consumer is minimal, use them to protect yourself!

Negative option marketing online: What it is and your rights

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