Google is allowing “dodgy retailers” to buy their way to the top spots on Google Shopping search results, despite breaching UK consumer laws.
Numerous online retailers listed prominently in Google Shopping’s search results for items including the iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Apple Airpods, were found by consumer watchdog Which? to be in breach of returns laws.
Which? looked into the small print of eGlobalCentral UK’s conditions and found that it charges consumers £15 to cancel an order after it has been processed, and reserves the right to charge a restocking free of up to £300 if terms of the returns policy are not met.
Not only did this breach UK consumer law but its return conditions also stated that returns must be made within 14 days, half the time permitted by UK law.
Meanwhile TobyDeals was also found to have a 14-day return period and stated it would charge £20 for cancelled orders and a potential £50 restocking fee for any missing accessories, alongside a delivery charge for all returns.
While both of these retailers are based in Hong Kong, because their products are marketed directly to UK consumers by using UK web addresses and listing prices in sterling, they are still bound by UK law.
“Our research shows how dodgy retailers can exploit a lack of oversight of ads on Google’s Shopping platform – putting consumers at risk of being ripped off,” Which? consumer rights expert said Adam French said.
“It seems wrong that firms that breach consumer laws can pay Google to secure prominent slots at the top of shopping search results.
“This is a significant gap in consumer enforcement, which reinforces why the next government must carry out a major overhaul of the system to reflect how people buy goods and services today.”
In response to the report TobyDeals said it would update its terms to abide by UK law, while Google said: “Because we want the Shopping Ads you see on Google to be useful, relevant, and safe, we have robust policies describing what we do and don’t allow on our ads platform.
“In addition, we require the merchants who use our platforms to adhere to local law. As such, we have disapproved and removed their Shopping Ads in the UK.”
Which? added that eGlobalCentral UK did not respond to the allegations.