A BREAKTHROUGH has being signalled in a campaign to win a better deal for Ross-shire shoppers over delivery surcharges levied by internet companies.
Since starting their investigations, Trading Standards officers have persuaded more than 20 internet trading companies to alter their trading practices to comply with the law.
Only this week, Trading Standards have had confirmation that Dabs.com, a major internet trading company that provides the internet trading platform for BT Store, have moved towards a "flat fee" delivery charge arrangement; and will no longer be applying a surcharge for deliveries to the Highlands, Islands or Northern Ireland.
eBay, whose activities now go far beyond simply being an internet auction site to include providing an internet trading platform for numerous small traders, have also agreed to correct a flaw in their systems that miscoded many mainland postcodes as being off-shore islands, which resulted in many people being incorrectly refused delivery by some businesses.
The legislation that applies requires businesses involved in distance selling and e-commerce to be absolutely clear and up-front with what delivery charges will apply to any purchase and not to make any misleading statements e.g. "Free Delivery to Mainland UK" when surcharges are made for deliveries to mainland Highland.
Gordon Robb, the council’s Trading Standards manager, said: "Our focus has been on those companies which featured most often in the survey responses or whose scale made them stand out as a priority to be tackled. Among those who have co-operated are some very large players in the marketplace.
"Great credit goes to a small team of highly motivated staff who have been involved in very detailed and exhaustive negotiations, which have resulted in agreements to voluntarily change the way these businesses handle delivery charges.
"This success will I have no doubt significantly affect the internet shopping experience of many consumers, both here in Highland and in other more remote communities."
Councillor Graham Phillips, chairman of the council’s TECS committee, said: "It has been clearly identified during their investigations that most of these businesses have not set out to mislead or rip off our consumers, but have instead been unaware of all that the law requires of them."
But he said there was still much work to do and removing any surcharges for delivery to rural communities remained a valid goal.