The web giant admitted its rules do not prevent sellers from countries like China suggesting they operate from the UK. Many customers who thought they were buying British have reported receiving poor quality goods or very late deliveries. Consumer experts believe in some cases the practice is a con to take money from buyers who put more trust in UK firms.
One shopper who thought he was buying British goods threw his parcel away without opening it when it arrived with a postmark from the coronavirus birthplace of Wuhan.
Another ordered a coat for her sick cat because it promised delivery from a British firm within a short period of time – only to receive it 10 weeks later.
A third believed he was buying genuine Ring battery from a UK supplier – only to receive a fake from China.
While a fourth bought a pair of jeans because the seller had an “English-sounding name” – only to find his delivery was delayed because it was coming from China at the start of the pandemic.
The Daily Express discovered how widespread the practice is by searching page after page of products listed by suppliers with the initials “UK” alongside their name.
One listing for a jumper, for instance, said it was sold by Beluring UK.
But clicking on the seller name revealed its real business identity was the China-based Chongqing Buruifu Network Technology Ltd.
Another seller described itself on the purchase page as Elegoo Official – UK. Clicking on Elegoo reveals it is the Chinese firm Shenzhenshi Guoyun Dianzishangwu Youxiangongsi.
Consumer laws protect British shoppers’ right not to be misled, and so items for sale must be as they are described and everything you are told must be true.
Section 13 (1) and Schedule 2 of The Consumer Contract Regulations state that the identity and geographical location of the seller must be made available to the consumer, before they buy.
An Amazon spokesman said yesterday: “Our mission is to build the best shopping experience for customers, with unbeatable prices, selection and convenience.
“When customers choose to purchase an item on our store, we clearly advise whether Amazon or a third party seller is fulfilling the order.
“Should a customer want further details on the seller, that information is accessible in a single click.
“The Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee provides additional protection for customers who buy from third-party sellers on Amazon.co.uk.
“It covers both the timely delivery and the condition of your items.
“If either are unsatisfactory, you can report the problem to us and our team will determine if you are eligible for a refund.”
Comment by Dean Dunham
If asked you where Red UK – a fictitious company I made up – was located, would you say the UK, China or you weren’t sure?
If you jump to the conclusion that the firm is located in the UK, there is a very good chance that you will be misled when you shop with Amazon.
This is because sellers based in China who use the platform are making up trading names that sound English – often with “UK” or sometimes “EU” in the name.
In my opinion, they do it to mislead the consumer into believing they are purchasing from a seller based in the UK.
Many UK consumers are likely to feel more comfortable with a UK seller due to quicker delivery times and the perception that it will be easier to get a resolution if something goes wrong.
But they are being caught out by Chinese sellers and, to make matters worse, Amazon knows about it. Consumers in the UK have lots of basic rights, the fundamental right being that you should always get “what it says on the tin”.
This means that goods must be as they are described by the seller, and that everything the seller tells you – both verbally and as presented in a listing – must be true.
In addition, the Consumer Contract Regulations clearly state that the identity and location of the seller must be made available to the consumer, pre-purchase, in a “clear and comprehensible manner”.
So next time you shop on Amazon, take an extra minute to click on the seller’s name so that you are fully aware of who they are.
Dean Dunham is the Daily Express Consumer Champion