When shopping online, one thing that is very different from buying from a brick-and-mortar store is that you have to wait for the product to arrive. You’ve gone through the whole buying process and just clicked that “buy” button. You’ve paid and now you have to wait for that package to arrive at your door. But wait, what if the package doesn’t show up even after a month of waiting? Let’s look at a couple of scenarios for the answer.

First let us tell you that, in BC, when you buy products or services online you may be entering a contract called a distance sales contract. Consumer Protection BC regulates certain aspects of distance sales contracts in BC, including what’s required to be in the contract, such as cancellation, return, exchange and refund policies.

Scenario 1:

Mike bought a designer brand watch from a BC based online shop. He was thrilled to find it online as stores in his city only carried limited colours. The contract was clear, including cancellation, return, exchange, refund policies and delivery date. However the watch never arrived even after 30 days from the specified delivery date! What could he do in this case?

Our suggestion to Mike: First, Mike may want to call his credit card company to request a chargeback. He may also try to cancel a contract as the business failed to provide the product within 30 days from the stated delivery date. There is a form on our website and our suggestion is to fill out this form and fax or mail it to the business by registered mail so he can keep a proof of the document delivery.

Scenario 2:

Susan has been searching for the perfect projector for her home theatre and she finally spotted what she’s been looking for. The website seemed to be from the US but the currency wasn’t specified, nor was the delivery date. She didn’t think to look for terms and conditions before she bought the projector. Now it’s day 35 and it still hasn’t arrived. She has franticly looked on the shop website but wasn’t able to find an order cancellation, return or exchange policy. What are her rights?

Our suggestion to Susan: Before anything, we recommend that Susan calls her credit card company to request a chargeback. Susan wasn’t able to find information about the product delivery date or policies that are required by the law in BC, therefore her contract may not be binding. In addition, as there was no delivery date and the projector wasn’t delivered after 30 days from the date of purchase, Susan has the right to cancel her contract and request a refund. Our suggestion for Susan is to use this form on our website to cancel her order. Just as we suggested to Mike, it would be best if Susan faxes or mails the form by registered mail and keep a copy of the form and proof of delivery.

Every situation is unique so we suggest that you find out your rights and responsibilities first. Learn more about the law in BC related to online purchases on our website. You can also check with our inquiry centre if you have a specific question about your experience.

November is Financial Literacy Month (FLM) and throughout the month, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada collaborates with various organizations to promote financial literacy for Canadians of all ages. To support this initiative, we are featuring online shopping tips on our blog to help you stay savvy.


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