Many of us love to shop online, and with such events as the January Sales gaining much publicity, more of us are putting our trust in online sellers of goods and services based elsewhere in the EU/EEA and beyond. While this can be beneficial, there are pitfalls and obstacles for consumers to be aware of when shopping online.
The following are some recommendations to consumers shopping online:
- Read the T’s & C’s: When purchasing items online, it is important to read the Terms and Conditions, no matter how time consuming this may be! Be sure to pay attention to any terms referring to payment, cancellation, delivery of goods and refunds;
- Check the seller’s details: It is good advice to consumers to research the seller’s contact details, which the seller is obliged to provide under EU legislation. These details should not include a “contact us” form or an email address, however, as these do not fall within the relevant legislation;
- Attempt to shop within the EU/EEA: If consumers decide to buy from a website based outside of the EU/EEA, they should bear in mind that EU consumer law only applies to transactions carried out within the EU/EEA. It is not always clear from the domain name of the website where the website itself is based, so it is recommended to do an online search to see if the website is associated with any country in particular;
- Look for reviews on websites/sellers: Before consumers buy anything with a particular website, it is a good idea to read any reviews available on the product/service in question and on the seller themselves. It is a good indicator of whether a site or seller is trustworthy;
- Make secure payments: It makes good sense for consumers where possible to make payments by credit card or through services such as PayPal in order to avail of additional protection when making payments online. Avoid sending payments by money or bank transfer;
- Awareness of consumer rights: Finally, it is important to note that when purchasing online, if the product received is unsatisfactory you have the same rights as if you purchased the product in a shop. You have the right to a refund and to change your mind within the recognised 14 day “cooling off” period.