Web shops fail to deliver: consumer group

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 Wednesday.

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

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

U.S.-based online retailers outperform their counterparts in Europe, the Consumers International study shows. Almost three quarters of the purchases made in the United States arrived on time, compared with 60 per cent in Europe. Only 32 per cent of the goods ordered in Europe came with return information, compared with 55 per cent in the United States In addition, U.S. 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 organization 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 organizations 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 organization said.

Consumers International in London is at http://www.consumersinternational.org/.