Online Shopping - when things get Nasty (Gal)
Updated: Apr 16
Earlier this week I posted a story on Instagram and Facebook about my pretty terrible experience shopping online with NastyGal.com, which involved paying twice for premium delivery which wasn't honoured, only to be refused a refund on no valid grounds...I was surprised by how many messages I received from others who had experienced similar problems. Of course most people have never received any training on everyday rights since this is not taught in schools, nor anywhere else unless you specifically sign up for it. This leaves many customers at a disadvantage unless they spend hours looking online for answers and trying to piece them together to apply them to their own case. So here is the first in a series to Knowing Your Rights when you shop online.
Firstly, I want to encourage you to think like a lawyer. What does this mean? Quite simply - QUESTION EVERYTHING. Of course, you need to stick to questions that are potentially relevant - 'potentially' being a key word here, since sometimes what's relevant isn't always obvious. The basic questions in this series will help get you where you need to go.
This post deals with Question 1 of 4, and is essentially an existential question - do you exist as a contracting customer? This series will deal with situations to which the answer is YES (i.e. 'contract law'). If you find that the answer is NO, don't fret. It might be that there are other recourses available to you if you've been treated badly or taken advantage of, for example where a company owes a duty to the public at large under law. Try this out and let us know how you get on:
Lawyer asks "Is there a Contract?"
Layman asks "Do we have an agreement?"
As above, in order for you to benefit from rights as a contracting customer, the answer to this question needs to be YES, and this requires 3 ingredients:
In most cases for online retailers, this will be the advertisement of the product or service which is for sale, and the price. The situation is slightly difference for online auctions - there it will be you as the buyer who makes the offer, stating what you are willing to pay for what.
The person receiving the offer (lawyers say the 'offeror', but let's call them 'the taker' for fun), needs to confirm to the giver that they have a deal i.e. they want to take it, not leave it. On doing this, they have an agreement, so long as the 3rd and final ingredient exists -
3) CONSIDERATION (A.K.A Something In Return)
If you are the taker, most often than not you will be paying money in exchange for the product or service. If you are the giver, the product or service are what you'll get in exchange for the price you said you're willing to pay. This can also be a promise to do something, like pay or deliver something later, perhaps on a set date.
Let's put these into practice:
In the case of my online order, NastyGal.com advertises various products and services on their website, including:
OFFER 1 - The 2 dresses that I purchased - available in different sizes which can be chosen.
OFFER 2 - A premium next-day delivery subscription which can be added to your basket as a service that applies to your orders for a year.
OFFER 3 - Alternative premium delivery options which can be added each time a product purchase is made.
These advertisements were NastyGal's offers to me.
INGREDIENT 1? CHECK
In the case of this type of online store, a promise to pay for products later is not accepted as the Something In Return, payment must be made at the time of accepting the offer (unless you use something like Klarna, but let's keep it simple). I therefore accepted NastyGal's offer only when I had completed my purchase online, having paid in full for the products and services. This was my confirmation that I accepted their offer, and we had an agreement.
INGREDIENT 2? CHECK
As mentioned, NastyGal's website is set up so that payment must be made at the time of ordering the products and services - this is the only Something In Return they accept in exchange for providing the products and services.
INGREDIENT 3? CHECK
Ladies and gentleman, we have an agreement.
It might seem a bit complicated now but you will be surprised at how simple it is once you practice looking for these 3 ingredients in everyday agreements that you know you have - it could even be fun (or maybe that's just me...)! In more elaborate agreements there are a whole host of additional things to take into account - but what is set out here are the backbones to every contract.
Sign up for updates to be notified when the next Questions in this series are published to determine Your Rights:
Lawyer asks "What are the terms?"
Layman asks "What is our agreement?"
Lawyer asks "Has there been a breach?"
Layman asks "Has our agreement been broken?"
Lawyer asks "What remedies exist?"
Layman asks "So what can I do?"
Best wishes and safe shopping!
Your KYR Team