The Highland Council has today made a breakthrough in its campaign to win a better deal for local consumers over delivery surcharges levied by internet companies.
Since starting their investigations, Trading Standards officers have persuaded more than 20 internet trading companies to alter their trading practices to comply with the law.
Only this week, Trading Standards have had confirmation that Dabs.com, a major internet trading company that provides the internet trading platform for BT Store, have moved towards a ‘flat fee’ delivery charge arrangement; and will no longer be applying a surcharge for deliveries to the Highlands, Islands or Northern Ireland.
eBay, whose activities now go far beyond simply being an internet auction site to include providing an internet trading platform for numerous small traders, have also agreed to correct a flaw in their systems which miscoded many mainland postcodes as being off-shore islands, which resulted in many people being incorrectly refused delivery by some businesses.
The charges imposed by internet and other remote traders for delivery to the Highlands has been widely recognised as a cause of significant concern and the surveys carried out by Trading Standards, Citizens Advice Scotland, Consumer Focus Scotland and the Office of Fair Trading has provided detailed evidence of the nature of the issues that are being experienced by consumers and the companies involved.
Using this information, Trading Standards is currently involved in the investigation into a large number of individual businesses and is working to ensure that they will eventually all be brought into compliance with the law.
The legislation that applies requires businesses involved in distance selling and e-commerce to be absolutely clear and up-front with what delivery charges will apply to any purchase and not to make any misleading statements e.g. “Free Delivery to Mainland UK” when surcharges are made for deliveries to mainland Highland.
The significant number of other businesses identified from other surveys has resulted in a joint working agreement with Trading Standards in the other North of Scotland councils to share the very significant workload.
* More on this story in next week's Northern Times.