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shoppers warned not to fall into seasonal shopping traps

New figures from Citizens Advice reveal the charity’s national consumer service is contacted by worried shoppers every nine seconds, totalling an average of over 3400 a day.

The service typically sees a spike in calls each January as shoppers seek help after problems with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and festive purchases. The number of complaints received by the charity in January 2023 grew 28% compared with the month before.
Between 1 January and 30 September 2023 Citizens Advice’s consumer service helped with complaints ranging from defective goods  (24% of complaints) - like broken mobile phones or out-of-date skincare products - to late deliveries or ones that didn’t turn up at all (4% of complaints).

 Maxine Bromyard, our Chief Officer says:

“Day in, day out we hear of shoppers in East Herts running into difficulties with their purchases. As we focus on counting the pennies, unscrupulous sellers turn to using high pressure tactics or misleading promises to make a sale. Coming away with less than we bargained for can happen to anyone, even the savviest shoppers.

“With the spending season fast approaching and the financial pressures piling on, it’s important we recognise the red flags and have the confidence to know what to do if things go wrong.”

Citizens Advice East Herts is on hand to help shoppers if they end up with more - or less - than they bargained for this season:

  1. Does it seem too good to be true?

If it seems too good to be true — it probably is. This is especially true for products which are ‘must-haves’ or are sold out in major retailers.

Be wary of sites offering big discounts, and ensure that you’re buying from the retailer’s official website so that you know it’s a genuine product. You can find out if a company is registered by searching their details on gov.uk. Sole traders (someone who runs their own business) and partnerships (where two or more people run a business together) don’t need to register with gov.uk, so you’ll need to do further research on their site to make sure they’re a genuine seller

  1. Check you’re buying from a trustworthy retailer

Do some background research into the company. Start with an internet search about the retailer and have a look at their official website. Make sure you find their return and refund policies so you can understand your rights if something goes wrong with your purchase. Find out how they can be contacted, where in the world they’re based and whether they’re part of a consumer protection scheme.

Seeing what others say about the retailer can help you find out if it’s a legitimate seller or not. But remember to look into reviews on other websites too, not just their official website.

  1. How do they want you to pay?

Be cautious when a seller asks you to pay by an unusual means such as in iTunes vouchers, crypto currency or via bank transfer. These are harder to track and lack the vital protections that you get when paying by debit or credit card or by a third party app such as PayPal. Whichever way you pay, make sure you check the terms and conditions to understand what you’re paying for.

  1. If something you ordered hasn't arrived

If you bought something from a business to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you. If the seller used a courier, they should chase the courier to find out what’s happened to your order - it’s not your responsibility.

Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact them and ask where your order is. If the seller claims they've delivered it or don't know where it is, you can ask for a redelivery. You might be able to get a refund in some circumstances.

We give people the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward - whoever they are, and whatever their problem.

  1. Figures are based on the average contacts per day through calls, emails and webchats. Between 1 January 2023 and 30 September there were 648,481 contacts. Accounting for weekends and bank holidays when the service is closed there were an average of 3413 contacts per day.
  2. Between December 2022 to January 2023 complaint numbers grew by 28% (December contacts related to trader complaints totalled 24688 and January contacts related to trader complaints totalled 31578). The service is closed on weekends and Bank Holidays (ten total days in December 2022 and ten total days in January).
  3. Out of a total of 226,915 trader complaints between 1 January 2023 and 30 September 2023, 54,361 were regarding defective goods. 8494 were regarding failure or delays in delivery.
  4. Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
  5. Our network of charities offers impartial advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free.
  6. Citizens Advice helped 2.55 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2021-22. And we had 40.6 million visits to our website. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 18,500 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.
  8. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for Welsh language speakers. 

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If you live or work in East Herts or Uttlesford, the quickest way to get the advice you need is by leaving a message on our Message Line (01920 459944) Monday to Thursday. An adviser will call you back as soon as possible – we aim to respond within 3 working days or sooner.

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