Step Sisters: Legal Advice on Getting a Refund for International Online Shopping

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When this man’s online shopping didn’t happen, he just wanted to get his money back. But the overseas retailer didn’t make it easy. And this is a problem that many others face.

Welcome to Sisters In Law, the weekly news.com.au column that solves all your legal problems. This week, our resident attorneys and sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett of Maurice Blackburn advise you on what to do if you don’t receive an order online and want a refund.

Question:

I ordered $ 500 worth of clothes to deliver and they never arrived, but I can’t get my money back.

The sellers are based in the US and they keep sending me links that say the package is in a private courier depot in Australia, but it’s been over eight weeks and nothing has happened.

I just want my money back but they don’t answer me when I ask.

I paid with a bank card (not a credit card) and I don’t know who to contact for a refund – the seller, the courier, or my bank. What should I do? – Dion, Queensland

Responnse:

If you ordered the clothes from an Australian online retailer, all of your usual rights of replacement, repair or refund apply to online purchases.

However, since you bought from a foreign retailer, it is not as straightforward to assert your rights and you will need to contact the consumer protection agency in the country where the retailer is based.

If you purchased the clothes from an online auction site (like eBay), most offer a dispute resolution process for both buyers and sellers. This should be your first step in resolving the dispute.

If, however, you bought directly from a supplier, the United States has a Bureau of Consumer Protection under their Federal Trade Commission, which investigates and prosecutes companies and individuals who break the law.

You should:

1. Contact the private courier depot where the seller has indicated your goods are located and ask if the goods are actually there. If so, arrange for the goods to be delivered.

2. Make a report to the Federal Trade Commission. These reports are used to investigate fraud (where companies can cheat people for their money and not do what they agreed to, like supply you with the clothes).

3. File a “chargeback” request with your bank. Even if you used a debit card (rather than a credit card), your bank will investigate and deal with the dispute for you.

To avoid finding yourself in the same situation, here are some tips when shopping online:

1. Shop online from Australian retailers.

2. Read reviews online to verify that it is a reputable and legitimate business, with an easy refund or complaint process.

3. Read the shop policies, including refund and exchange policy, after-sales service, and delivery details.

4. Do not make any payment unless you can make a secure payment and you are on a secure website (usually there will be an image of a closed padlock on the page)

5. Make sure the business has a physical address and a landline number. This will help make sure that you can actually get a refund or a repair.

6. Try using a debit card, credit card, or PayPal for the purchase. If there is a dispute, your bank or PayPal will usually investigate and pursue the refund for you.

7. Keep a copy of the purchase confirmation and verify with your credit card or PayPal statement.

This legal information is general in nature and should not be construed as specific legal advice or relied on. People requiring specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.

If you have a legal question that you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email [email protected]

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Originally published under the title Sisters In Law: How To Get A Refund For Online Purchases?


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