Giving people with mental health problems equal access to vital services

Merlyn Holkar, Senior Research Officer and Chris Lees, Research Officer

Convenience at a cost

Exploring the aspects of online shopping that are putting those experiencing mental health problems at risk of financial harm.

10 November 2020

The second report in our series on online harms highlights that while the ease and convenience of online shopping can be a lifeline for people experiencing mental health problems, pushy retailers are leaving people at risk of financial harm. The report outlines that: 

  • Symptoms of mental health problems can make it challenging to control spending.
  • This is made worse by the frictionless, pressuring and personalised design of online shopping sites. 
  • Newer payment technologies like ‘buy now pay later’ are becoming more common,  but can make it easier for people to get into debt and pose particular risks to people with mental health problems.
  • People experiencing mental health problems can also find it difficult to return unwanted purchases — which can worsen financial difficulty and mental health problems. 

Key recommendations: 

  • Retailers should offer customers more tools to manage online spending and avoid harm — such as the choice to opt out of ‘buy now pay later’ services, or to have a ‘cooling off’ period before completing purchases.
  • The government and regulators should look at compliance with current consumer protection laws and address gaps in current regulation.

Watch our Senior Research Officer Merlyn summarise the report’s key findings: