During the holiday season millions are using online purchasing to avoid those hectic shopping malls. However online shopping is different, you cannot meet the retailer or handle the goods prior to buying, and you cannot keep an eye on your credit card information. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when online shopping.
- Know who you are dealing with – most of us shop with well-known retailers but if you are not sure about them check for their name, address, telephone and fax numbers on their website so you have their contact information. Also check for quality assurance certificates or seals.
- Look for websites that offer a lot of information about their products as you have to rely on their descriptions because you cannot touch or try on anything prior to purchasing.
- Calculate the total cost of the goods and make sure to include shipping costs and duties if applicable to avoid any surprises when your purchase is delivered.
- Read the terms and conditions of the sale. These should be provided by the merchant in plain language and should include a description of the goods, the price, payment methods, delivery options, guarantees and warranties, return policies and your options if the goods do not arrive. The merchant website should also include a simple process for handling complaints and inquiries and if applicable who is responsible for after-sales service.
- Before providing financial information make sure the merchant has a secure transaction system. Most internet browsers indicate when you are using a secure link. This will either be an icon, often a lock at the bottom of the screen or in the address bar of your browser, or if the website begins with https:// the s indicates that it is secure.
- Be careful when buying from auctions as when you are buying from a private individual consumer protection laws do not protect you. Read the rules of the auction site the better ones will have records of customer satisfaction and a system to resolve disputes.
- Buying internationally might give you a good price but it involves more risk. Make sure you calculate the price with shipping and duties allowing for currency conversions and check that the goods meet Canadian safety standards.
- If an offer sounds too good to be true stay away from it. This includes a promise of a valuable prize for a low-cost purchase and any offer asking you to send money before you get the special deal.
With all this in mind, have a happy online shopping season!