Scots have been encouraged to shop online safely as National Consumer Week gets underway today.

Record numbers of people are expected to shop online in the run-up to Christmas, with Black Friday kick-starting sales next week.

With coronavirus restrictions still in place across the country, consumers are also being encouraged to shop locally online, with many small retailers turning to the internet for the first time.

National Consumer Week operates across the UK, and in Scotland it is led by Advice Direct Scotland – which runs the national consumer advice service – and Trading Standards Scotland, with the support of the Scottish Government. The theme for 2020 is online shopping and deliveries, with promotional campaigns running to encourage Scots to stay safe online, know their rights, look out for unfair delivery charges and ensure they don’t buy counterfeit goods. Online adverts will use the hashtag #NCWScotland

Councillor Kelly Parry, chair of Trading Standards Scotland’s governance board, said:

“This National Consumer Week it is more important than ever that Scottish consumers are aware of their rights when shopping online and that they know what to do if things go wrong.

“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more consumers have been shopping online and this trend looks set to continue over the Christmas period. For many people, budgets will be particularly tight this year and it can be tempting to click on a social media advert or unfamiliar website offering deals on big brands or in-demand items.

“Unfortunately, more people have also fallen victim to online scammers who set up fake websites or stores on online marketplaces in an attempt to steal their personal and financial details.

“Trading Standards want to help consumers recognise and avoid online shopping scams while supporting legitimate businesses. Check that the website is secure and that it has a valid UK address, return policy and terms and conditions. Where possible, pay by credit or debit card as this will offer you more protection if you’re a victim of fraud. Be suspicious if a website or seller will only accept bank transfers.

“If you don’t receive an item you’ve purchased online or have issues returning goods or contacting the seller, remember that your consumer rights are the same when shopping online as they are on the high street and that you have the additional right to a 14-day cooling off period for most purchases. Scottish consumers should contact Advice Direct Scotland to report any issues or for advice on their rights.

“Shop safely online this Christmas and please remember that, if something does goes wrong, there is advice and support available to you.”

Organisations can download a social media pack with messaging and graphics to use throughout the week here.