Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Where to go for help

Where to go for help


There are international bodies that could become involved if you have a problem when buying from abroad. Please let them know if you do have a complaint - it might also help other people in the future.

European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net)

A total of 27 European consumer centres (ECCs) provide advice and assistance on how to resolve EU cross-border consumer complaints. You can find ECCs in all EU member states, Iceland and Norway. The Centres work together to keep EU citizens informed of their consumer rights when shopping cross–border, and also assist consumers in the resolution of cross-border complaints and disputes, including facilitating access to out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes in participating countries.

You can contact the UK European Consumer centre website. The service is co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy [BEIS] and the European Commission, and delivered by the Trading Standards Institute.

Please note that if you take your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution body, you may not later be able to go to court if you are unhappy with the outcome. Check before you formally refer your dispute to the ADR body.

International Consumer Protection and Enforcer Network (ICPEN)

The Competition and Markets Authority or CMA (which replaced the Office of Fair Trading) is a member of the ICPEN, a global network of national consumer protection agencies. Although the ICPEN does not usually help individual consumers, it has set up a system to help the voluntary settlement of relatively small cross-border disputes. Where the supplier is based outside the European Union, it is possible for the CMA to pass on suitable individual consumer complaints (a special complaint form is available) to the relevant overseas agency. The complaint form will then be forwarded to the business in question for a response.

Advertising Standards Authority

The Advertising Standards Authority controls advertising on UK websites. Advertisements therefore have to observe the British Codes of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, which say that adverts must be legal, decent, honest and truthful. It may also be a criminal offence if the website describes goods in a misleading way in order to sell them.

A complaint about an overseas internet business can be registered at, an international consumer complaint database maintained by the US Federal Trade Commission. Your information can help the authorities crack down on dishonest internet sellers in the future. Your complaint will be accessible to participating government law enforcement agencies. Most participating agencies can't take up individual complaints; you should carefully read how they might use your details.

The site also provides general information about consumer protection in all participating countries and contact information for consumer protection bodies in those countries.

The countries involved are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA and the UK. The e-consumer site is only intended for cross-border complaints. If your complaint is about a UK online business, you should contact either the OFT or your local trading standards authority.

Internet service provider

If you made the link to the seller via an internet service provider (ISP), you could ask them for help. Check that your ISP is a member of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA). The ISPA is a trade association representing approximately 85 per cent of internet services providers in the UK. ISPA has developed a code of practice that all ISPA members must comply with. It addresses service quality and illegal material on the internet.

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