Gadget firms which break law ‘buy top Google slots’

ONLINE retailers in breach of UK laws on refunds and returns are able to buy their way to prime slots on Google Shopping’s listing service, according to a consumer watchdog investigation.

Outlets which impose unfair terms and conditions or unreasonable charges are among the Google site’s top results when searching for gadgets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Apple iPhone 11 and Apple AirPods, Which? found.

Investigators looked at the small print of electrical sellers to find breaches of law, that included retailers having ‘restocking fees’ of up to £300 to return items.

Other outlets expected customers to return products in a brand new condition, while some forced buyers to pay postage costs even if the purchase was faulty, back to their operations in Hong Kong.

‘Our research shows how dodgy retailers can exploit a lack of oversight of ads on Google’s Shopping platform, putting consumers at risk of being ripped off,’ said Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which?. He added it was wrong they can ‘pay Google to secure prominent slots at the top of shopping search results’.

Which? claims Hong Kong-based eGlobalCentral UK’s conditions states customers will be charged £15 if an order is cancelled after it has been processed and may charge a restocking fee of £30-£300. TobyDeals, also in Hong Kong, has a £20 administration fee if its customers cancel an order once it has been processed. Which? also discovered less serious breaches by UK-based Techinthebasket and Wowcamera.

Toby Deals and Wowcamera have since agreed to update their terms to bring them in line with UK consumer law but Which? did not receive a response from eGlobalUk and Techinthebasket.


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