If you've had the chance to speak with one of your local courier drivers, you may have heard them say that lockdown was like Christmas every day. Unfortunately for them, this did not mean overindulging in stuffed turkey or pavlova for weeks on end - it meant online deliveries. Tonnes of them.
And with a lot of people still reluctant to potentially put themselves in COVID-19's path, our online shopping obsession continues.
The advent of COVID-19 and the rapid pace at which our non-essential movements were restricted resulted in many businesses – and consumers – entering the wide world of online trading for the first time. Likewise, those with more experience in e-commerce were upping their game by conducting more of their business online.
The increasing volume of online shopping has led to some teething issues for businesses and consumers alike.
For businesses, the key thing to remember is that the same rules apply as with "bricks and mortar" trading, although the playing field is a little different. There are a number of additional issues that crop up when businesses trade online, such as timeframes for delivery, policies and processes for returning unwanted or faulty goods, and availability of stock, to name a few.
• Let's talk law: Top Tips for individual employment agreements
• Let's talk law: Legal jargon – terms of art
• Let's talk law: Coronavirus and the workplace
• Let's talk law: Farm succession – start the conversation now
These can all be challenging obstacles for businesses to overcome, particularly if they are new to the game. Failure to adhere to the rules could not only result in damage to your brand, but also penalties under the Fair Trading Act for misleading consumers.
The Commerce Commission has recently issued some helpful tips for businesses to bear in mind when engaging in online shopping. These include:
•Only offering goods for sale that you reasonably believe will be able to be supplied on the terms offered.
• Providing clear and accurate information about the availability of goods and when they will be delivered.
• Keeping customers updated regarding known delivery delays.
From a consumer perspective, a little bit of homework before you buy always goes a long way. The Commission recommends potential buyers conduct a quick desktop search for reviews, comments, and the physical address of the store at which you might purchase your goods. This can be a useful way to detect offshore businesses trading under a .co.nz website, when the store is actually somewhere quite different. While buying from overseas retailers is a great convenience afforded by online shopping, it does reduce your chances of successfully asserting your rights against dodgy traders. As the Commission says, a little research before you buy can pay dividends.
Consumers should take note of the following:
•If you purchase something online that a business can no longer provide, the business needs to pay you a refund within a reasonable timeframe.
• Goods should arrive within the timeframe stated. If that doesn't happen, you may be entitled to reject the goods and ask for a full refund.
• Before making an online purchase, pay attention to any messaging on the website regarding delivery times.
• If you need to buy goods as a matter of urgency, contact the business to check your timeframe can be met.
As we move further towards level 1, couriers will hopefully be able to put their feet up and catch their collective breath. And if you are receiving yet another delivery of "must have" heels or miscellaneous bric-a-brac from all corners of the internet, take a minute to thank those bringing them to your door.
Not all heroes wear capes.