The Consumer Lawyer

What are your rights on major shopping platforms? (2/3)

By Dean Dunham – 23 January 2022

Over the past few weeks I have been looking at some of the most popular shopping platforms on the internet. This week, I looked at Amazon.

There is no doubt about it, Amazon is one of the best and most convenient shopping platforms on the net; with nearly every product conceivable being available with very fast delivery on most occasions. However, Amazon does have some floors that need to be addressed and therefore you need to be aware of. Here is what you need to know:

Who are you buying from?

A common piece of advice I always give consumers is “don’t buy from China” or indeed from a trader anywhere else outside of the UK. The reason for this is simple, we have the best consumer laws in the World, none of which will protect you if the trader is based overseas.

In November 2020 I wrote an article highlighting that consumers, in my opinion, were being misled in relation to the identity of some of the sellers on the Amazon site. By way of example, many Chinese traders were using ‘English’ sounding trading names which led many consumers to believe they were buying from a trader in the UK. However, when you clicked on the traders name, on the Amazon site it became apparent that it was not a UK company. I invited Amazon to ban this practice and to make the true identity and location of traders transparent – by placing this information on the front page where the product details were contained. They clearly ignored me as this practice still continues.

By way of example; there are products listed on the Amazon website from a trader named as “Kanars Crystal”. When you click on this name the true identity of the trader is revealed as “shenzhenshinanwangtongxinkejiyouxiangongsi” based in China.

I put this to Amazon again and it said:

“Should a customer want further details on the seller including their business and customers service address, that information is accessible in a single click.”

This somewhat misses the point as the ‘average’ consumer will not do this, instead they will simply press buy now, rather than investigating the trader further.

Next time you buy on Amazon make sure you click on the traders name to find out exactly who and where you are buying from.

What are you buying?

It is inevitable that a platform as big as Amazon, where any trader can sell goods, will contain counterfeit goods. I have read lots of stories on the likes of Trust Pilot from consumers who ended up with counterfeit goods from third party sellers on Amazon. This is something you therefore need to be careful of.

The good news here is that Amazon takes counterfeit goods very seriously and in 2020 launched its counterfeit goods unit. Amazon told me:

“As a result, fewer than 0.01% of all products sold on Amazon received a counterfeit complaint from customers but we won’t rest until we have zero counterfeits in our store”

Is it as good as they say?

Fake reviews are rife across the internet, especially on Amazon. Again, the platform is clearly working hard to deal with the issue but as matters stand you need to be careful when buying goods I reliance of what the reviews say.

Whilst you were out..

On most occasions it appears that Amazon’s delivery service is very impressive. However, Consumers have told me and indeed I have experienced this myself, that often Amazon parcels are left outside whilst they were out – often resulting in them being stolen. Stephanie Benham told me that this happened to her and when she reported the matter to Amazon she was told that drivers often report that deliveries have been made before they actually have. Miraculously someone found Stephanie’s parcel under a bridge near her house and returned it to her.

Amazon says consumers can add delivery instructions in their account settings. But this misses the point, as the law is very clear – unless the consumer says a trader can leave goods outside (whilst the consumer is out) they must be delivered to the consumer personally (i.e. whilst they are home).

Good for the environment?

Nothing to do with consumer rights, but if you care about the environment you will share my opinion that Amazon needs to look at its packaging policy.  My experience, and many people say they too experience this regularly, is that goods arrive from Amazon in boxes far bigger than the goods. By way of example, Keir [  ] purchased a small umbrella and it arrived in a box that probably could have housed 30 umbrellas.

When I put this to Amazon I was initially told “this should rarely be the case”. But it later confirmed that it was working with suppliers to reduce packaging and said:

“Since 2015, we have reduced the weight of outbound packaging per shipment by 36 percent and eliminated over one million tons of packaging material, the equivalent of over two billion shipping boxes.”

Finally, Amazon says its ‘A to Z guarantee’ protects consumers when they buy items sold and fulfilled by a third-party seller.

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