Muscat: Oman is discussing legislation to protect online shoppers from being caught out by small print or by fraudsters, an official at the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) said.
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He explained that a number of authorities are working on a legal framework “to protect consumers from any problematics”.
“After finalising the law, it will be passed over to the higher authorities for final approval,” he explained.
For now, he advised online shoppers to read all terms and conditions before purchasing an item to avoid any misunderstanding – especially the small print.
The multi-agency approach to protecting Oman based online shoppers comes after some buyers bought items assuming that they would be able to get refunds or replacements without reading the small print.
One online shopper in Oman was surprised when purchasing from a major online baby store in the UAE. She said: “I ordered an item which clearly stated on the purchase page free returns within seven days. But when I tried to return it they said it only applied to customers in the UAE. There was no mention of that anywhere on the product page, however, hidden lower on the website was another returns policy page, and right at the end of that was the GCC returns policy.
“The joke was that I even arranged to have the item taken back to the UAE for them to collect, but they still refused to give me a refund as we’d opened the sealed plastic packaging it had come in. “Of course there was no way to check the item without opening the bag, but again, hidden away on the website, was their policy that they won’t accept items back if packaging was opened. It’s ridiculous.”
Omar bin Faisal Al Jahdhami, vice chairman of the PACP for consumer services and market control, urged online buyers to read previous customers’ comments to establish if there is anything wrong with the product they intend buying.
He urged consumers not to purchase electronics as they are more prone to damage and might cause warranty issues.
“Other products such as fabrics are safer to purchase online,” he said. “However, they need to check for the original shop price before ordering as the online product includes the delivery fee which, when put together, can surpass the shop price,” Al Jahdhami warned.
He also warned about social media sellers who offer products that may come with faulty designs and cannot be replaced later as they are sold without providing bills or warranty.
Countries like Sweden have clear do and don’t links to instruct consumers before purchasing anything online.
Watch out for fraud
Be suspicious of cheap offers or unbelievably good products.
Read all the purchasing information on the website.
Don’t contact companies which are not bona fide
Check the total cost. Are packaging, delivery and any customs charges included?
How long is the delivery time? This can be useful to know if you need the goods by a particular date.
If there is no mention of right to cancel, think carefully before you place an order. 14 days’ right to cancel is a legal right when shopping within Sweden.
It shouldn’t cost you anything to cancel a purchase, but you may have to pay the return postage.
Once you have ordered goods, you should always get a confirmation. The confirmation should also provide details of your right to cancel.