Buying a wedding dress from a bridal boutique isn’t always a viable option for every bride, especially if you’re looking for something non-traditional on a tight budget, in which case searching for a dress online makes sense.
However, if you’ve found the dress of your dreams on a website that looks like it’s based in the UK, at a truly affordable price, it’s possible that the wedding dress you’re looking at won’t be the dress you receive and if it’s coming from China, your consumer rights may not be protected.
Read on to wise up on how to avoid being ripped off when it comes to buying your bridal gown online.
Short on time?
Cut to the chase and jump straight to our tips on On How To Avoid Wedding Dress Scams.
We’ve all seen them, ads on Facebook for clothing and footwear that look hugely tempting. From gorgeous leather boots on sale for just £30 to stunning boho wedding gowns priced well below £200, and who doesn’t love a bargain?
For those that don’t have thousands of pounds to spend on a wedding dress, you’re probably doing exactly what I’ve been doing. You’ve found the gown of your dreams which has an absurd price tag, so you’ve spent hours if not days (or even weeks!) scouring the internet looking for something similar.
You come across a website full of beautiful wedding gowns, glowing reviews and your heart skips a beat as you finally think you might have found the right wedding dress for you.
Cheap Chinese Knock-Offs That Look Terrible & Don’t Fit
Please don’t rush to part with your cash though. There are a huge number of Chinese websites that have been set up over the last few years designed to look like UK businesses.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find head office addresses are often in Hong Kong and that independent review sites paint a damning picture, very different to the ‘reviews’ shown on their website.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every Chinese website is a scam and that every gown they sell is garbage – I’m a member of a few Facebook groups for budget brides, and some have happily purchased dresses from China.
During my own extensive wedding dress research though, I’ve found that every website I’ve looked at offering beautiful gowns at bargain prices, have shocking independent reviews.
Customers routinely complain of low-quality fabrics, garments that are ill-fitting (despite using made-to-measure options) and even worse, receiving dresses that look nothing like the photos on the website, then when trying to return items, they are finding they get no response from customer services or offers of a partial refund for a dress that is unfit to wear and definitely not as advertised.
Sites That Breach UK Consumer Law
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 here in the UK protects buyers and the Consumer Contracts Regulations act states that consumers have the right to cancel their order or return goods for 14 days after ordering, and a further 14 days from the date you notify the retailer that you’d like a refund.
You have a legal right to goods that are of satisfactory quality,including appearance and finish, that the description of products is accurate and fit for purpose. You have a legal right to a refund if you return anything that is faulty within 30 days of receiving it, regardless of the shop store’s return policy.
As most of these websites are based in China however, these laws do not apply, so you are not protected as a consumer in the same way you are when buying here in the UK.
To find out more, read is buying from China a good Idea?
How To Avoid The Big Wedding Dress Scam
The dress you see on the screen is not necessarily the dress you’ll receive. The sizing may turn out to be totally different (how is that 36 inches in China
So how can you tell if the site you’ve come across is legit enough to trust? Here’s what you need to do.
If the dress images have been lifted straight from other sites, using a tool like Tinyeye can help you identify other websites that use the same image.
This way you might find that the actual dress is indeed a designer gown being advertised at a fraction of the price of the original and what you’ll receive is likely to be a cheap and poorly made copy.
2. Check independent review websites
Don’t rely on reviews on the actual website! It’s all too easy to fake reviews to make it sound like customers are happy with their dresses, you need to check third-party review sites though.
3. Check the location of the company
Websites will often have a .co.uk domain name and will display prices in GBP and even show the British flag on the site – that doesn’t mean they are based in the UK though!
During our research, every single wedding dress and luxe evening dress website we looked at, turned out to either be based in China, or at least had their domain name registered in China, although they do such a good job of not putting a company address on these websites that it took a whoislookup to be able to determine that was the case!
4. Online market places like Amazon and Etsy aren’t immune to Chinese sellers
Lots of us turn to Etsy as a name we can trust and you’ll often find stunning dresses here, but be warned. Some sellers may look like they are British or U.S. businesses, when in fact they are based in China making copies of dresses and using cheap materials.
I should stress, I’m not saying that all Chinese websites are scams, far from it, I’ve ordered the odd thing from China without any trouble, but, when it comes to wedding dresses you may not be paying for the dress you think you are, it might end up being much lower quality than you were expecting and you may not have any ability to send it back or obtain a refund, so do be careful.
I adore Etsy and buy a LOT of stuff there, so please don’t let this put you off, but do make sure you check the location of sellers first, and again try to find independent reviews for individual stores/sellers.
5. Run a Whois Lookup on the domain
You’ll see exactly who registered the domain name and more importantly, the location of the registrar too. Again, any located in China should be a huge red flag.
6. Get in touch via customer services before buying
Make sure the business has legitimate working contact details on their website by getting in touch with them before ordering and testing out their customer service before you buy.
If they don’t publish their address or head office details on their website, perhaps ask yourself why any business would want to hide such important information from customers?
Of course, someone responding to the email of a potential customer is quite different to a scammer simply not bothering to get back to a customer who has already handed over
7. Consider customs duties
If you are determined to chance it and order your bridal dress from China, remember that for orders under £135 you won’t need to pay customs duties, anything above this can attract additional fee’s before the item will be released from customs however, so make sure you factor this in as it can bump up the total price you pay.
If In Any Doubt At All, Avoid!
Your wedding dress is too big a decision to take a risk with. Although in the world of wedding gowns £200 or so isn’t very much, if you’re on a tight budget like I am, £200 is still a fair chunk of money to potentially lose on a dress that doesn’t meet your exceptions or isn’t fit for purpose, so it’s just not worth the risk.
My advice is to
If you can’t afford to use a bricks and mortar bridal boutique, or if you can’t find what you’re looking for and need to turn to the internet, then there are some Inexpensive off-the-peg wedding and formal dress vendors you can trust.
Trusted UK websites include;
- John Lewis Bridal
- Next bridal
- Chi Chi London
- Free People
- French Connection
During our research (carried out on 11/08/2019) we found the below sites had totally missing contact details, no information about the location or address of the company and poor reviews on TrustPilot and similar independent review sites and were either located in China or at least had their domains registered in China.
Websites you might want to be wary of include;
…and lots, lots more!
Buying a cheap wedding dress from China is just not worth the risk.