The Consumer Lawyer

Coronavirus – Buying goods from China and other jurisdictions

There’s been lots of press about the Coronavirus and in particular how this is affecting travel arrangements and your rights. However, readers are now starting to ask me about whether in light of the Coronavirus, they should still be purchasing goods from China? Not surprising, given the fact that it is thought that 50% of goods purchased from eBay and other like sites come from China.  Here’s what you need to know:

Should I purchase goods from China?

Regardless of the Coronavirus, my advice is never to buy from China or like jurisdictions for the following reasons i) you are not protected by the UK’s consumer laws ii) its notoriously difficult to obtain a remedy if something goes wrong with the goods iii) there are lots of scams connected with purchasing goods from China; and iv) goods purchased from China are not subject to the same strict quality requirements as we enjoy in the UK.

Can the Coronavirus be transmitted via goods sent in the post?

The World Health Organisation has made a statement saying that it is perfectly safe to receive a parcel from China, therefore confirming that the virus cannot be spread via goods sent in the post. In response to a specific question about packages the organisation said: “From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.”

Can I cancel an order from China?

Under UK consumer laws you would be able to do this, as the Consumer Contract Regulations state that you can cancel goods purchased online anytime up to 14 days from the date of delivery. However, this does not apply to goods purchased from the likes of China, so you will have to see what the trader’s terms and conditions say on the subject. My guess is that they will be silent on this matter.

It’s also worth noting that your parcel could get delayed by customs or even rejected as the level of diligence increases with imports. If this happens, you will likely find that the trader will refuse to resend the goods unless you pay an additional delivery fee, and few will agree a refund.

Overall, I would advise that you ere on the side of caution and avoid shopping with traders based in China or indeed any other country that has outbreak of the virus.

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