Published Tuesday, 22 October 2013
To avoid getting sleighed by some costly pitfalls here are a few questions to ask yourself before hitting the click to buy button:
How do I know my credit/debit card details are safe?
There's a really quick and reliable way of checking your payment transaction is safe and secure. Before entering your card details always look for https in the internet address and a padlock icon in the browser bar. Don't be fooled by a padlock icon on the web page itself as this can be easy to fake.
What's the best way to pay?
If you're being really generous with the gifts then it's worth knowing you have added protection when you use your credit card for a single item costing over £100. By law the credit card provider must help you get your money back under 'equal or joint liability' if a problem occurs with your order.
If you use a credit or debit card for goods costing under £100 you may be able to use the card provider's Chargeback process to get your money back if for example the goods don't arrive or they're poor quality.
A lot of websites use an online payment processor like PayPal or WorldPay. These have their own payment protection arrangements but do read the terms and conditions so you know how you're covered.
How do I know the website is legitimate?
Using an online directory such as www.shopsafe.co.uk will give you added confidence because it provides a list of sites that only offer secure credit card transactions and have clear returns policies, terms and conditions.
If it's a website you've never heard of before, do your research. Does the website provide a postal address and telephone contact details, as they're meant to by law? It might be worth checking the details provided as you don't want to experience difficulties contacting the company if something goes wrong.
Remember to always print and keep a copy of your order confirmation and check it against your debit or credit card statement to make sure you were charged correctly.
What if something does go wrong?
You have the same rights online as you do when shopping on the high street. If the item you've bought is faulty, not fit for purpose or not as described, you may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund.
However, as an online shopper you have extra consumer rights. The law gives you the right to cancel your order in writing (including email) and get a full refund even if the goods aren't faulty. This is called a cooling-off period and it gives you a chance to look at the item and decide if it's what you wanted/expected. Be aware there are some types of order you can't cancel, such as personalised gifts. Otherwise though you have seven working days, starting the day after the item arrives, in which to change your mind. Every web retailer must tell you about your cancellation rights, if they don't they're breaking the law.
Are there additional costs involved?
Shopping online could save you money if you shop around and compare prices. However, some deals might seem good value until you add on postage and packing so take this into account.
If you cancel and return your order you will be refunded the original postage and packing fee but check who pays the cost of returning unwanted goods - it will almost certainly be you!
To find out more on any of the above information you can download a free copy of our 'Online Shopping Tips' guide through the Consumer Council website:
www.consumercouncil.org.uk or request a copy by contacting 0800 121 6022, Twitter (@ConsumerCouncil) or Facebook (Consumer Council Northern Ireland).
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