East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has claimed that consumers in Northern ireland are being discriminated against when it comes to the delivery of goods purchased online.
The DUP man accompanied representatives of the consumer council to a meeting with Business Minister Nick Boles in Westmenster to discuss the issue.
He said: “Although many sellers advertise their sales as delivery free or at very low delivery costs, many people find that these offers do not apply to NI and only find this out when they have gone through the whole ordering process.
“Thirty percent of online retailers either don’t deliver to NI or charge higher rates than those which apply in the rest of the UK. This compares with three per cent for Scotland and Wales and one per cent for England, even though many parts of NI have lower delivery costs than some parts of either Scotland or Wales.
“The fact that firms don’t declare this policy until the transaction has nearly been completed is actually contrary to present consumer legislation. Also many of them use Royal Mail which has universal charges across the UK yet the retailers charge as if postage costs to them were higher when they deliver to NI, so there is no economic justification for the policy in many cases.
“Indeed the fact that 70 per cent do not impose additional charges is evidence that by choosing couriers carefully the extra costs could be avoided.
“If consumers were aware of the extra charges or the non delivery rules when they started browsing a site they would quickly move on to another seller and this is the reason why many of the sellers do not declare their policy up front.
“We urged the minister to enforce the current legislation vigorously so that those firms which breached it were penalised. Secondly he agreed to prepare material which would be communicated to all on line retailers so that they were aware of their obligations and the need to be clear about their policy at the top of their website.
“Thirdly the consumer council has agreed to work with retail organisations and the department to develop a kite mark which will show if sellers are complying with best practise in their delivery policy.
“This is a huge issue for people in East Antrim who buy online. I have been contacted by many who cannot understand how a seller claims that goods will be delivered free of charge or at certain rates within the UK only to find that living in NI means the terms do not apply. Greater transparency and consistency is essential to ensure that my constituents get a fair deal.”