WHAT SHOULD CONSUMERS DO WHEN SHOPPING SAFELY ONLINE?

Shopping safely online is more important than ever now as it brings various risks of being caught out by scams and fraud. It is important that you take various measures to protect yourself when shopping online, because even the most diligent of individuals can fall victim to online fraud.

Your bank should refund any money you lose to fraud when online shopping, although that is not always the case. Banks are becoming more militant against giving refunds for customers where they think you were negligent or did not take adequate precautions. You can refer a case to the Financial Ombudsman if all else fails, although this is the last resort. You need to demonstrate that you have done all you can to avoid being a victim of any fraud or scam.

You cannot put a price on the stress and emotional impact of being a victim of any fraud or scam, hence why you need to do everything you can to protect yourself.

SHOPPING SAFELY ONLINE – TOP TIPS

Only use safe and secure online shopping sites.

When you are shopping online, it is important to do your research and pay securely.

Research the company to make sure it is a legitimate business.

Check:

  • Contact details
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Physical address – does it exist? Look on Google Maps

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RESEARCH RETAILERS ONLINE TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE LEGITIMATE

Is there a padlock on the website? Make sure the website is secure.

Does it begin with https://

Think before you click. Beware of adverts encouraging users to click on links. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Use reputable websites.

DO NOT USE PUBLIC WI-FI

Public Wi-Fi is not secure. Always use a secure internet connection when doing online banking and shopping safely online.

USE STRONG PASSWORDS

Use strong passwords with numbers and characters. Change your passwords frequently to avoid being a victim of any data breaches with online retailers.

KEEP SOFTWARE AND VIRUS PROTECTION UP-TO-DATE

This is essential to protect yourself from malware, hackers and for shopping safely online.

BEWARE OF AMAZON FRAUD – REAL LIFE EXAMPLE

I have been caught out by a fraudulent seller on Amazon.

The price of the mobile phone was the cheapest available and the seller simply despatched a small empty envelope which was signed for by my parents. The seller would have used that as proof that the item had been sent, delivered and signed for.

I raised a dispute ticket with Amazon and flagged it by pointing to multiple reviews confirming what I said. Luckily I was refunded within a week, although I also raised a dispute with my credit card provider as they were jointly liable under S75 Consumer Credit Act 1974.

Check the reviews of the seller and look to see if it is a reputable retailer.

Do the business premises actually exist? Look for the address and check on Google Street View. It is quick and easy to do.

This may sound excessive but I did just that after being caught out by a fraudulent seller, only to find that the address was simply a door up a side-street in a warehouse. 

ALWAYS PAY BY CREDIT CARD WHEREVER POSSIBLE

Paying by credit card gives you an extra layer of protection for goods purchased over £100, even if you only make a 1p deposit by credit card.

S75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 holds the credit card provider jointly liable in the event of things going wrong.

You can raise a chargeback within 120 days as a disputed transaction if necessary. This also applies to debit cards via a voluntary scheme which the banks subscribe to.

The card provider will raise a ticket to investigate it and may reverse the payment, but that is not the end of the matter. Eventually your case will be proved or not, so it is crucial that you have the evidence to hand (photos, receipts and a timeline of events). 

KNOW YOUR CONSUMER RIGHTS AND COMPANY RETURNS POLICY

Do not assume you can always return goods from private sellers trading on online marketplaces.

Shopping online can give consumers extra protection if they wish to return goods under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013.

You have a 14-day cooling off period to return any items, which does not affect your consumer rights.

This does NOT apply to private sellers, so check the seller’s return policy before buying any items. 

ITEMS ‘SOLD AS SEEN’ DO NOT AFFECT YOUR CONSUMER RIGHTS

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that goods ought to be:

  • Fit for purpose
  • As described
  • Satisfactory quality
  • Last a reasonable length of time

Statutory limitations on goods lasting a reasonable length of time are 6 years in England and Wales and 5 years in Scotland through the Small Claims Court.

S31 Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that a trader cannot exclude or restrict liability in any way. That means that your consumer rights are unaffected.

Note that this does not apply to private sellers, where your consumer rights are limited.

Traders purporting to be private sellers are caught by this because it is classed as a B2C transaction (business to consumer).

ONLINE SHOPPING AND FAILED DELIVERIES

This is the most common complaint of all with online shopping, where retailers say you need to speak to the courier if any issues arise.

Your contract is with the retailer, so it is their problem to resolve it – not yours. The only exception to this is if you have arranged for the items to be delivered by a courier firm you have chosen yourself.

ONLINE SHOPPING TIPS TO SAVE MONEY

Shopping safely online opens up different ways to save money too.

Top Cash Back gives you free cashback for online purchases with hundreds of online retailers, stores and hotels. The cashback (discount) is automatically applied to your account once the transaction is complete.

Use loyalty cards and credit cards wisely – many give points and vouchers based on how much you spend.

Compare prices – Google Lens can be used to scan an image of an item and look for cheaper prices and alternatives.

Don’t checkout immediately. Leave the items in your online shopping basket – the retailer may come back with an exclusive discount code to entice you to purchase the goods.

Buy goods out of season. If you want a new BBQ, buy it in the Autumn when stores are clearing their summer stock out.

DON’T USE GIFT CARDS

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Gift cards are simply too risky post-Covid with firms going into administration virtually every week on the high street.

There are hidden rip-offs as well. Give cash – it is much safer.

These are my top tips and advice for shopping safely online. Can you add anything to this?

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