FROM our spending habits to how we spend our time, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly changed how we live our lives. For many people, the need to limit physical interactions has led to an increased reliance on online shopping with recent research from the Post Office finding that over half of us plan to buy more Christmas presents online this year.

This increased demand for online services has created challenges for many businesses. While the shift in how we shop has offered a lifeline to some consumers and businesses, I’d also encourage people to support our Scotland Loves Local campaign, think local first and support local high streets safely and in line with public health guidelines.

It’s important that shoppers have the information they need to shop online safely, avoid online scams, identify unfair delivery costs and avoid unsatisfactory service.

We might be becoming accustomed to clicking on a basket instead of picking one up, but how aware are we of our online consumer rights? And do we give enough thought to keeping safe when shopping online?

National Consumer Week, which began yesterday, is focused on raising awareness of these issues and what people can do if something does go wrong – offering straightforward advice that could save money and disappointment.

Top tips include using a credit card or a secure online payment system rather than a bank transfer when buying something online. This will offer you more protection if you are a victim of fraud or if you are unable to contact the seller and will also prevent scammers from obtaining your payment details.

Watch out for social media scams using the names of high street brands by checking the web address carefully, and if in doubt, checking the brand’s official social media channels. Facebook recently took down scam advertisements for Clarks shoes which used addresses such as rather than the genuine address.

Before you purchase something online, make sure you have contact information for the seller and check the site’s returns policy and terms and conditions.

And remember, your consumer rights are the same when shopping online as they are on the high street. In fact, most purchases also provide you with an additional right to a 14-day cooling off period.

Once you are ready to make a purchase, don’t forget to check the delivery charge details. Scottish Government research has uncovered shocking stories of unfair charges, from a resident of Mull facing a £230 delivery charge for a television to someone from Islay quoted a delivery charge of £57.60 for a compost bin.

As part of our action to tackle this, we launched a free online parcel delivery pricing map which can be found at to help identify unfair delivery charges. After entering a postcode, the website compares charges for a range of parcel sizes from six major companies and users can also find which online UK retailers deliver to their area.

We are taking further action to protect consumers. Next year we will establish Consumer Scotland, a new body to represent the interests of consumers that will focus on investigating consumer harm and developing solutions to tackle it.

So if you are planning to buy something online please remember your consumer rights, be aware of potential scams, and research delivery options before committing to a purchase. And if something does go wrong, there is help out there including the team at Advice Direct Scotland who you can contact to report issues and ask for advice.

Jamie Hepburn is Business Minister