Tips for on­line shop­ping

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - 60 YEARS OF EUROPEAN UNITY -

■ Make sure the site has a real world ad­dress, and not just a web pres­ence. The trader is legally obliged to give a full name, ad­dress and con­tact de­tails. An email ad­dress or a con­tact form is not good enough. If you can’t find these de­tails, this may be a un­trust­wor­thy site. Use your in­stincts.

■ It’s a good idea to shop from sites based in the EU. That way, you’ll en­joy the ex­tra layer of pro­tec­tion EU leg­is­la­tion gives. Note too if a web ad­dress ends in ‘. ie’, it doesn’t mean the web­site is based in Ire­land. Check the postal ad­dress.

■ When you buy on­line, you’re not just hand­ing over cash, you’re also hand­ing over in­for­ma­tion. You need to know the site’s pri­vacy pol­icy. What kind of info is the seller gath­er­ing from you? What are they go­ing to use it for? If there’s no pri­vacy pol­icy, who knows what they’re do­ing with the in­for­ma­tion you give them?

■ ECC Ire­land is call­ing on con­sumers to think first be­fore hit­ting the ‘ pur­chase’ but­ton. If you see some­thing that you like while swip­ing on your mo­bile then great , but maybe hold off un­til you get home and have the time to fully ex­am­ine what you’re buy­ing or agree­ing to.

■ The usual ‘shop around’ ad­vice ap­plies. Use a shop­bot like megashop­ to find the cheap­est deals out there. You tell it what you want and i t zips around a range of on­line re­tail­ers, then re­turns with a list of prices.

■ Know the full price, in­clud­ing ship­ping and taxes, be­fore you con­clude the deal. Some UK sites charge ex­or­bi­tant ship­ping fees that can­cel out any price ad­van­tage. In the same vein, if the goods are priced in Ster­ling, Dol­lars or another cur­rency, the rate that will be ap­plied is the rate that will be used by your credit card com­pany, not the one you Google. Note too banks and credit card firms mostly give you a poor con­ver­sion rate.

■ When us­ing your credit card on­line, make sure the site is se­cure. On a se­cure con­nec­tion, the start of the re­tailer’s in­ter­net ad­dress will change from ‘ http’ to ‘https’ be­fore it gets to the page where you in­put your credit card de­tails. There should also be a pad­lock sym­bol on the top left cor­ner of the web- page. Click on this to en­sure the re­tailer has an en­cryp­tion cer­tifi­cate. This is a tool for mak­ing sure your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is sent safely.

■ Never send cash or use a money wiring ser­vice to pay for goods be­cause you’ll have no re­course if some­thing goes wrong. Also, keep a record of your trans­ac­tion and check your credit card state­ment af­ter you make your pur­chase to en­sure no ad­di­tional fee was charged to your card.

■ Check the pur­chase as soon as it ar­rives, and if there’s a prob­lem, quickly get in touch with the trader straight away and let them know. Tell the seller in writ­ing about any prob­lems you have, ask for a re­pair or re­fund, and keep a copy of your cor­re­spon­dence. The good news is any faults that be­come ap­par­ent within six months of the goods be­ing de­liv­ered are pre­sumed to have ex­isted at the time of de­liv­ery.

■ Know your rights. If you’re buy­ing goods or ser­vices on­line, you’re cov­ered by the Dis­tance Sell­ing Di­rec­tive, which places a num­ber of obli­ga­tions on the seller. He has to pro­vide you with his con­tact de­tails, in­for­ma­tion on taxes, charges, de­liv­ery costs, any guar­an­tees and af­ter sales ser­vices…The list goes on and on. Note too that when you buy on­line within the EU, there’s now a 14 day cool­ing off pe­riod dur­ing which you can re­turn the goods or with­draw from the ser­vice with­out hav­ing to give any rea­son and with­out in­cur­ring any penalty,

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