Citizens Advice has warned buyers to beware of online marketplaces ahead of Black Friday as thousands report being ripped off.
More than 13,000 problems with purchases on online marketplaces were reported to the charity’s consumer service last year, it said.
Recent polling suggests three quarters (76%) of UK adults now use online marketplaces, which are websites where traders and private individuals list and sell products.
However Citizens Advice warned consumers planning to spend in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to be aware of the dangers.
Analysis of calls to its service found that those reporting issues with online marketplaces last year lost an average of £215.
Half of those who had a problem (50%) had further issues trying to resolve it, while calls about problems with purchases on online marketplaces have increased by 35% over the past four years.
In one case, a woman bought two “Gucci children’s coats” from an online marketplace, only to spot reviews saying the coats were fake after she had paid.
The mother-of-two said: “The coats arrived and I was absolutely devastated. They looked absolutely awful. They looked so cheap, smelt like wet dogs and looked nothing like the picture.”
She has laid a formal complaint with the payment company about getting her money back.
But Citizens Advice said more than half of customers did not know they had fewer rights when they buy from a private seller compared with a business.
It recommends that consumers check all the product information carefully before buying on an online marketplace and take extra care such as reading previous reviews and saving screenshots of their purchases.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Far too many people are being ripped off on online marketplaces. This National Consumer Week, we want to make sure customers know what to look out for when making a purchase – and their rights if something goes wrong.
“With millions of people trying to find a bargain online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, buyers need to beware when purchasing items through online marketplaces.
“Before clicking the buy button, it is really important people check the product information available otherwise they risk being left out-of-pocket.”
Consumer Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “The UK’s consumer protection regime is one of the strongest in the world, but there is always more to do to ensure shoppers know their rights.
“We are clear that online marketplaces must ensure consumers are aware of the rights they have. With 76% of us now using these marketplaces this campaign from Citizens Advice will play a valuable role in helping ensure consumers can shop with confidence and know what their rights are should things go wrong.”