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Amazon faced questions from a Westminster committee on delivery charges in Scotland

Online retailers must not offer free UK delivery unless it applies to every part of the country under a decision from the advertising watchdog today.

The Advertising Standards Authority said some retailers had been ‘misleading’ consumers with unconditional UK delivery claims when the offer did not apply to all areas.

It follows complaints from residents in rural areas, particularly in parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Anglesey and the Isle of Wight, of having to pay additional delivery charges.

Under the new ruling, any surcharges or restrictions on delivery offers must be made clear from the outset and should not contradict the main claim under an enforcement notice from the Committee of Advertising Practice, part of the ASA.

Advertisers have until 31 May to comply with the notice or face being reported to Trading Standards by the watchdog’s compliance team and fined.

“Companies must honour the delivery claims they’re making or stop making them,” said the ASA’s chief executive Guy Parker. “It’s simply not fair to mislead people about whether parcels can be delivered to them, or how much it will cost.”

“Our enforcement notice action makes very clear that advertisers must not mislead consumers by promising ‘free’ or ‘UK’ delivery when it turns out that delivery is not free or the item won’t be delivered if you live in certain parts of the UK,” said Cap director Shahriar Coupal.

In February, Amazon faced questions from a Westminster committee on delivery charges in Scotland over consumers being offered free UK-wide delivery only to have charges added before purchase.

The committee had heard that shoppers in the Highlands and Scottish islands paid up to 50% more on average for delivery than the rest of the UK.

Amazon’s UK and Ireland director of public policy Lesley Smith told the committee that sellers should not advertise free UK-wide delivery then add charges, and that customers would be refunded if they had been misled.