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Buying from overseas sellers – your consumer rights
When you buy something from overseas you usually don’t have the same rights to protect you as you do in the UK. Get advice on how to find out what rights may apply and who you should complain to if something goes wrong.
Your rights when buying from overseas
If you buy something in the UK and something goes wrong with it, you usually have the right to a repair, replacement or refund. These are known as your consumer rights.
If you buy an item abroad in person, eg on holiday, your consumer rights will depend on the law of the country you are in.
If you buy goods online, UK law is usually applied unless the trader states they are trading from another country. The trader should say which country's law applies on their website or in any contracts they send.
You can check what consumer rights you have in a particular country by searching online for that country’s government website.
How to complain if there's a problem with something you bought
If there's a problem with something you bought overseas, first complain to the trader.
If your item came with a manufacturer’s warranty or guarantee, you can also complain to the manufacturer.
If you bought a faulty item using a credit card, you can complain to your finance company. They will share responsibility with the trader for any faulty goods.
If you bought a faulty item using Mastercard, Maestro or Visa, you may be able to claim your money back through their ‘chargeback' scheme. You will need to contact the card company to make a claim.
If your complaint is not sorted out, contact a consumer rights organisation in the country you bought your item from (see section 'Organisations that can help if things go wrong').
If you don't know who to contact, contact Consumer Direct, the government funded consumer advice service.
You may also want to seek legal advice. Taking legal action can be expensive and you may not get the result you want.
Organisations that can help if things go wrong
If you have a problem with something you've bought from Europe, you can complain to:
- the UK European Consumer Centre for any problem with goods or services bought in the EU, Iceland or Norway
- the Financial Ombudsman for financial products, eg loans
The Financial Ombudsman is part of the Europe-wide financial dispute resolution network FIN-NET. Its members offer schemes so you can sort out your complaint without going to court. The ombudsman will put you in contact with the out-of-court resolution scheme in the relevant country.
You can also complain to Jersey Trading Standards about problems with goods or services that you've bought there.
The Better Business Bureau can help with complaints about goods or services that you've bought from a trader based in the United States.
You can also report a US trader to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC may take action against the trader, but it won't sort out your individual complaint.
The following government agencies deal with customer complaints in their country:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Office of Consumer Affairs in Canada
- Ministry of Consumer Affairs in New Zealand
- Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices in South Africa
For other countries, search online for the country’s trading standards or consumer rights association, eg by visiting the country's government website.
You can also report an overseas internet business to Econsumer.gov, a website for cross-border disputes. Member countries range from Mexico to New Zealand.
Econsumer.gov also has advice on how to resolve your complaint without going to court.