Consumer group: web shops fail to deliver

Shopping via the web can't be done with confidence as many online retailers fail to deliver quality service, according to a study by Consumers International released last week.

          Shopping via the web can't be done with confidence as many online retailers fail to deliver quality service, according to a study by Consumers International released last week.

          Researchers at 15 consumer organisations in 14 countries placed a total of 340 orders with online stores around the world. They found that 18% of the online shops didn't give the total cost of the order, 34% didn't detail the delivery area, 39% of the orders didn’t arrive within the time quoted and 6% didn't turn up at all.

          After delivery the goods were returned. Only 33% of the products came with return instructions. In 17% of the cases it took over 30 days for a refund to be credited and in 9% the researchers are still waiting for credit.

          US-based online retailers outperform their counterparts in Europe, the Consumers International study shows. Almost three quarters of the purchases made in the US arrived on time, compared with 60% in Europe. Only 32% of the goods ordered in Europe came with return information, compared with 55% in the US. In addition, US sites were better at showing if a product was in stock.

          Online retailers have improved their service since 1999, when Consumers International did its last study, the organisation said. The information provided is better and more online stores give a target delivery time. Data for this year's study was collected from about November last year until March 2001.

          Concluding that business still has some way to go in both fulfillment of orders and improving information, Consumers International, a federation of 263 consumer organisations worldwide, is calling for governments to strengthen legislation and guidelines for consumer protection. Web retailers that fail to comply should be "named and shamed," and businesses and consumers should be educated, the organisation said.

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