The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Local Authority Trading Standards Services (TSS) have launched a sweep of online retailers to ensure they comply with key requirements of online shopping laws in the run-up to Christmas.

The OFT will look at the UK's 600 most popular retail shopping web sites to ensure they are meeting key requirements of the Distance Selling Regulations, which provide additional protection for shoppers when buying, including online and mail order.

It is estimated that UK consumers will spend£14 billion online this Christmas. However, OFT research has shown that most online shoppers do not know that they have additional protection and many web sites may be breaching regulations by not respecting consumers' rights fully.

OFT senior director of markets and projects Heather Clayton said: “Shoppers need to be confident that their rights are respected when they shop online. This sweep will identify where online retailers may be falling short and need to refresh their knowledge of the law.”

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, chairman of Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), said: “Most web sites comply with the law, but shopping online can still put consumers at risk. Our efforts will focus on the small minority of web sites who need help bringing their practices up to scratch.”