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OFT directs focus on internet shopping

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Consumer protection regulator the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched an investigation into consumer benefit from complex goods and services contracts, in particular online shopping.

The OFT will research whether consumers are fully aware of the typical contracts involved online and whether their understanding is impeded or heightened by face-to-face, online, or telephone transactions.

Heather Clayton, Senior Director of OFT’s Consumer Market Group said:

“Today, consumers are offered a range of complex contractual arrangements, particularly for goods and services offered online. We often see situations in many different markets where people lose out as a result of not understanding contracts.”

The investigation’s findings, expected some time in the summer, will likely be used in conjunction with OFT’s current investigation into online business practices.

Constant consumer complaints over ‘drip pricing’, where fees are secretly levied on a product’s price, and the collection of private advertisement data based on shopping habits will potentially be eradicated by the OFT’s investigations.

According to the OFT, the investigations could create a code of practice of online retailers; make recommendations to government; take action against particular companies; or ask the Competition Commission to conduct a full investigation into firms.

“We want to understand the cause of these problems and look for remedies that will not only protect consumers, but also help those businesses that are trying to provide clarity to their customers,” added Ms Clayton.

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Written by Andrew Hodges

February 24, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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