As we enter the busy Christmas season, Consumer Affairs Victoria is warning shoppers to avoid a nightmare by exercising caution when buying goods and gifts online. The consumer watchdog says that lat year it received over 7000 complaints about issues with online shopping. Many such complaints included goods that weren’t supplied, or were only supplied in part, goods with major failures or defects, as well as issues with refunds or returns.
Clothing and footwear was the most problematic product, with holiday accommodation and mobile phones and accessories rounding out the top three.
Minister for Consumer Affairs (Victoria) Marlene Kairouz sated “Online shopping is a great way to find the perfect present without battling Christmas crowds, but it’s important to do your homework before you click ‘purchase….Following simple steps like only using trusted websites, checking delivery details, and paying by credit card means you won’t be caught out on Christmas day.”
Australian-based online retailers must comply with the Australian Consumer Law, which guarantees a refund, exchange or repair if a product is faulty or unsafe, doesn’t match its product description, or never arrives.
However, overseas retailers must only comply with the consumer protection laws of their own country, which sometimes offer limited safeguards.
Tips when shopping online include:
- Pay by credit card so that you can seek a chargeback from your bank and avoid potential problems obtaining a refund
- Do your research to ensure you only deal with reputable businesses – reading up on business reviews and warnings could save a lot of pain
- Protect your financial details by only making payments through secure sites. A secure internet address starts with https instead of http
- Read and understand details like delivery timeframes and the store’s refund, return, exchange and repair policies – businesses are not legally required to offer a refund, return or exchange for change of mind
- Keep copies of all electronic documents and receipts in case there is a problem later.