NI Trading Standards is warning against websites posing as UK-based businesses, selling dresses that don’t met expectations and sometimes result in a customs bill.
Consumers have reported purchasing items from website sending in dot-co-dot-uk and which appear to be for companies with a registered UK business address.
However, they have been left dismayed when clothes depicted as high-quality occasion wear turned out to be ill-fitting reproductions with only a passing resemblance to what was advertised.
On attempting to return such items, traders often refuse to acknowledge the poor quality or provide any redress.
And some consumers have also found themselves facing an unexpected customs bill to import the items from China.
A number of complaints have been made to the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service by people left out of pocket.
Cara McParland, from the NI TSS, said: “What appear to be genuine, professional websites frequently use images taken from other internet suppliers.
“Therefore, consumers should always exercise caution when buying online and do their research before making any payment.
“If dealing with an unfamiliar website, a simple Google search of the trader’s name and website address along with the word ‘review’ or ‘scam’ can return any poor or negative reviews left by others who have experienced unsatisfactory service or, worse, been scammed out of their money.”
The NI TSS is further warning that the dot-co-dot-uk address and UK geographic business address guarantees nothing.
Ms McParland added: “A trader can be based anywhere in the world and, as such, will have no intention of giving UK consumers their right to a 14-day “cool-off” period when buying online from UK or EU based websites.
“Trading Standards Service would advise that when purchasing anything online, you use a secure method of payment.
“Using a credit or debit card may provide you with more protection. Don’t pay via money transfer.”
- Help and advice is available from Consumerline on 0300 123 6262