Re: Online Shopping Contract Advice

On 2 Feb, 16:17, "nightjar" <cpb@<insert my surname here>>

consumers would think it defeats the object of online retailing (which
is that it is quick and efficient) if the process refers back to
postal correspondence to "confirm one's order".

If that were the normal procedure, it would. However, I only used it for
suspicious transactions, which averaged one or two a week before 3-D secure
was introduced.

I'm getting a little confused here. The original posters objection,
which I wholeheartedly second, is to a retailer essentially having an
unfounded suspicion and as a result simply cancelling an order, and
then referring to unfair terms in the contract which apparently
justify cancellation at the seller's complete discretion.

You on the other hand state that you take steps to verify or refute
your suspicions by contacting the cardholder. In that case I don't see
at this stage how your practice can be faulted.

The majority did not reply, a couple thanked me for
alerting theem and one wondered why i was bothering.

How many of these cases amounted to fraud?

Given that I did not deliver anything, I would presume all that did not
reply, as well as the two that thanked me for alerting them to the misuse of
their cards. Genuine customers tend to complain if they don't get several
hundred pounds' worth of goods.

And indeed, the original poster did complain, and was offered the same
goods on the same terms except at a higher price. That is unfair.

"to do everything to prevent [fraud]" does not mean riding roughshod
over a consumer's contractual or statutory rights.

If the retailer does things properly, no such rights are established until
the order has been checked and accepted as genuine.

As I've said, it is quite legitimate to have a fraud prevention
process, *provided it is fair and transparent to consumers*, and it is
quite legitimate to make any sale conditional on the retailer being
satisfied that the order is not fraudulent.

The original poster, however, was not the subject of a fair and
transparent fraud prevention process. He was the subject of an opaque
process, and was given no opportunity to offer further evidence as to
his identity. Why is it fair that consumers should be forced to gamble
with their time and effort in placing an order and awaiting delivery,
when the supplier can later cancel the order upon a whim? This is, of
course, assuming that "fraud prevention" is the honest explanation for
the original poster's treatment.

If the card issuer is arbitrary and onerous in their demands
against a merchant, then that is the merchant's problem, not that of
the consumer. In my view, suspected instances of fraud could be dealt
with in a straightforward fashion - that is, the merchant reports the
suspicion to the issuer, and the issuer if necessary uses their own
data to contact the cardholder.

The most straightforward option would be for the relevant card issuers to
insist that their card holders always use 3-D secure - Verified by Visa or
Master Card Secure Code - when ordering online. That shifts the risk to the
card issuer and alleviates the need for vendors to carry out fraud checks.
However, a large number of people who shop online do not use that option,
even though it provides them with strong protection against the misuse of
their cards.

You are missing the point. I don't care what methods retailers and
card issuers use to verify transactions, provided that these methods
are fair and transparent to the consumer. Requiring customers to
provide names, addresses, card numbers, CCV codes, expiry dates,
passwords, secret questions, fingerprints, or whatever, are all
fundamentally *fair and transparent* to the consumer. In the event the
customer (or fraudster) provides the wrong details, then it is quite
legitimate that the retailer refuse the transaction.

This notion is perhaps best illustrated if we were to put this unfair
practice into blunt terms: "an order by you does not amount to a
contract of sale, nor are we obligated to supply any goods that you
order". ...

That is what most well-written online terms and conditions do say, except
that they additionally specify at what point a contract to supply is

But what I submit is that these contracts often operate in a way that
is unfair to the consumer, and are therefore subject to challenge. I
don't know whether you've ever seen, for example, Amazon's terms and
conditions, but in the event they were challenged in court I would not
be surprised if the court simply ripped the contract up and started
again. (I should point out it is years since I last read Amazon's T's
& C's)

Also what I will say is that if the supplier has a transparent and
reliable process of fraud detection, ...

A transparent system would simply make it easier for fraudsters to bypass
the checks.

Security through obscurity is generally no security at all. It is the
equivalent of saying it is acceptable to leave the bank vault open
every night, as long as you don't tell anyone. Judging by the dizzy
high levels of card fraud suffered today, transparency is desperately
needed to drive the development of more secure operations.

They have not acted to prevent fraud, as they have re-offered to do
business with the poster only this time charging a higher price.

They have done so after receiving information that has lead them to
re-assess the level of risk. Fraudsters do not normally follow up
non-delivery of their orders.

This is voodoo logic. If the test of fraud is "does a customer
complain about their cancelled order", then the retailer should take
account of the new information and deliver the goods as originally
agreed. If the retailer incurs some cost or inconvenience in the
course of this procedure, then it should be seen simply as the cost of
doing business.