More and more people are making use of the internet to satisfy their shopping needs as online shopping saves precious time and offers a wide range of products and services at competitive prices.

The concept of dropshipping has also started to become more popular recently. The main difference between an online seller and dropshipping is that while the online seller stocks products, in dropshipping, the online shop has no stock and the orders it receives are forwarded to a foreign supplier. The supplier then sends the product directly to the consumer.

Dropshipping is legal, but scammers are increasingly using this technique at the detriment of consumers. These sellers tend not to abide by the distance-selling legal requirements, such as providing their contact details on their website. Hence, if consumers encounter a problem with the goods purchased, obtaining a remedy becomes difficult. These sellers also tend to mislead their potential customers by not providing the products as advertised.

Recognising a dropshipping site

Before concluding a purchase, consumers should look out for the information on the location of the registered trader. This is usually found in the terms and conditions of the website. Webshops selling consumer goods in the EU are obliged by law to indicate their registered address in their general terms and conditions. If the website is a dropshipping site, it should also have information on where the supplier is located.

The following are other ways to recognise a dropshipping website:

Private address – If the address indicated on the website is a private residence, you are probably dealing with a dropshipping website. If in doubt, it is advisable to search for the  address on Google Maps.

No original product images – Dropshipping sites tend to use images from other sites. To confirm this, you can take screenshots of the image and compare it with other websites.

Vague or long delivery times – Dropshipping suppliers are often located in Asian countries, resulting in lengthy delivery times.

Language errors – Generally, the description of the item is poorly translated to English.

If the website is a dropshipping site, it should also have information on where the supplier is located– Odette Vella

Beware of misleading adverts

Products sold through dropshipping sites are usually promoted as original. However, sometimes these products are not of the expected quality even though they are sold at a very high price. Consumers may also be enticed to buy low-cost products believing that they are making a bargain but end up purchasing inferior- quality products.

Furthermore, products may be advertised as manufactured in Europe, but in fact they are made elsewhere. Such practices are considered misleading and unfair, especially since legal recourse against sellers outside Europe can be limited.

Consumers should also be aware that buying from an online shop is similar to physical shopping in that they are entering into a sales agreement with the shop. In dropshipping, the agreement is between the consumer and the trader operating the website, who must comply with the legal return and warranty rules.

When shopping online, consumers also have the right of the 14 days cooling-off period during which they can change their mind and return the item bought. The dropshipper may provide the supplier’s address for the return of the unwanted goods but must indicate the  return expenses should consumers decide to exercise their withdrawal rights.

If a problem arises with the purchased product, consumers should contact the sellers immediately in writing and inform them about their complaint. If it results that the seller is a scammer, consumers should file a report with the Police Cybercrime Unit.

On the other hand, if the dispute is with a legitimate dropshipper seller situated in a European member state, or in Iceland or Norway, they can contact the European Consumer Centre Malta for further assistance by calling 2122 1901 or e-mailing ecc.malta@mccaa.org.mt.

This information is provided by the European Consumer Centre Malta.

WWW.MCCAA.ORG.MT

ODETTE.VELLA@MCCAA.ORG.MT

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