Online Consumer Complaints

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E-commerce allows consumers and merchants to interact without ever laying eyes on one another.  Because that interpersonal interaction is not present in an e-commerce transaction, resolving consumer complaints can often be quite difficult.  As a result, e-commerce has given rise to an entirely new niche in the area of consumer protection – online consumer protection. 

Consumer Complaints Online

Online or e-commerce consumer complaints usually arise in relation to three areas:

  • The product purchased is not as advertised;
  • The product purchased arrives in a damaged or otherwise unsatisfactory condition; or
  • The product does not arrive within the agreed upon time frame.

When disputes arise under any of these scenarios, a consumer is legally entitled to withhold payment until a resolution is reached.  The first step in attempting to resolve the issue is to notify the merchant of the problem.  If you are unsuccessful in reaching a resolution with the merchant, you should file a consumer complaint with your credit card company.  Your consumer complaint should explain in detail your issue with the merchant.  Your credit card company will withhold payment to the merchant while it investigates your complaint.  The credit card company must notify you of the result of its investigation within 30 days. If the credit card company determines that your complaint is valid and the merchant has already received payment, the merchant must credit your account within two billing cycles.

If you are still not satisfied, you may have to pursue legal action.  However, this can be difficult, because most jurisdictions require that suit be brought in the county where the company has its primary place of business.  If the e-commerce merchant is in another state or another country, it may not be cost effective to pursue legal action.

Online Consumer Protection

Millions of people are victimized each day by Internet scammers.  These fraudsters engage in spamming and phishing and use spyware and malware to steal consumers' identities.  They also use scams such as pyramid schemes and Internet auctions to cheat innocent consumers out of their money.

If you are the victim of an Internet scam, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.  The FTC is dedicated to online consumer protection and is charged with investigating and prosecuting predators who violate consumer protection laws. 

Sites to File Consumer Complaint

Most federal and state enforcement agencies are not involved in helping individual consumers resolve disputes with online merchants or in obtaining redress if a consumer has been the victim of Internet fraud.  However, there are numerous consumer complaint sites that offer consumers a venue to post complaints against companies that engage in unfair or illegal business practices.  Examples of consumer complaint sites are:

The Better Business Bureau and the FTC as well as many other federal, state, and private online consumer protection organizations allows consumers to file consumer complaints online.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been unable to resolve a dispute with an online merchant, you may need the assistance of a knowledgeable e-commerce attorney.  If the merchant operates his business from another state or country, pursuing legal action against him will be much more complicated.  Therefore, you should seek the advice of an experienced e-commerce attorney immediately to determine and protect your rights.

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