Online scams and cybercrime are hot topics for this year’s World Consumer Right’s Day. Almost all of us now shop online, but how can we ensure that we are staying safe and avoiding fraudsters?

The Low-down on the New Consumer Rights Act

The new Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) came into force on 1 October 2015. It repealed most consumer-specific legislation including The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA), the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SOGA), and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (SOGSA). So why the big change? Prior to 2015 there were 100 pieces of consumer-related legislation which caused some inconsistency and ambiguity. Legislation was also struggling to keep pace with technology and retail practice.

As with previous consumer legislation, the new CRA applies to business-to-consumer transactions, not business-to-business. A ‘consumer’ is defined as an individual acting for purposes wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

Shopping Safely

As a so-called ‘consumer’, what can you do to ensure that you are protecting yourself from being scammed?

  • Ensure that the website you are using will keep your card details safe. To identify this, simply look for ‘https’ in the website address (the ‘s’ stands for secure). Also check for a padlock icon in the browser bar.
  • If you are buying from a website or brand that you haven’t shopped with before, do some research, and check reviews and previous customer feedback to give you peace of mind.
  • Don’t click on web links sent via email. These can often look authentic but will redirect you to a fake site.
  • There are a number of technical and legal options available to the savvy online retailer and shopper. Many big tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and Google now offer encrypted password apps which will remember or create any number of complex different passwords for all your online accounts. The best part of using one of these solutions is that you only need to remember one password to use them.

EU General Data Protection Regulation

  • The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into operation on 25 May 2018 makes certain individuals at companies responsible for data breaches and allows for large fines based on a percentage of annual turnover. Recent statistics suggest that a staggering 70% of consumers have not even heard of the GDPR. Educating yourself on the new Regulation is the most powerful weapon you could have to protect yourself from fraud.
  • One of the main changes for consumers under the GDPR is that companies wishing to use consumer data must get more explicit consent rather than simply burying the consent in small print and putting the onus on the consumer to object to it. Look out for an influx of “consent” requests attached to any data collection as well as notices regarding any data breaches.

I’ve Been Scammed. What Should I Do Now?

  • Shoppers concerned that a data breach may have affected them or led to them being defrauded online can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office online for help in securing their data or claiming compensation. If the matter is high value or urgent, an intellectual property solicitor should be consulted.