The dan­gers of off­shore on­line shop­ping

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The click of a mouse and a let­ter­box is all you need to do your shop­ping these days – es­pe­cially when you don’t feel like head­ing out into the cold or bat­tling traf­fic.

Most New Zealand re­tail­ers have an on­line of­fer­ing that al­lows you to click and buy from the safety of the sofa while still sup­port­ing lo­cal busi­nesses.

There is also a high chance you’ve headed on­line and overseas if you want to shop for things that just aren’t avail­able here.

But off­shore on­line shop­ping brings with it a few pit­falls that many peo­ple aren’t aware of un­til they are hit in the wal­let. Here are a few things to watch out for:

1. New Zealand is a mil­lion miles away from any­where so the cost of ship­ping can be ex­pen­sive. Some on­line stores of­fer flat ship­ping rates, even free de­liv­ery. Nev­er­the­less, pay care­ful at­ten­tion – the price might be cheaper but ex­tra ship­ping fees might af­fect your credit card state­ment sig­nif­i­cantly and quickly turn a ‘‘good buy’’ into a costly ex­er­cise.

2. Bal­ance the pros and the cons of on­line shop­ping ver­sus just go­ing to a store. Some on­line re­tail­ers ‘prom­ise’ quick de­liv­er­ies, how­ever there’s still no guar­an­tee that your goods will ar­rive on time. Other stores charge more for speed­ier de­liv­ery but that still might not meet your time ex­pec­ta­tions. If your pur­chase is very time-de­pen­dent, just go to the shop. It may cost you a bit more, but it might just be worth it.

3. Don’t think shop­ping off­shore and on­line will au­to­mat­i­cally mean you by­pass GST. You could still get stung at the bor­der. Make sure you check the New Zealand Cus­toms Ser­vice web­site to find out more about fees you might be li­able for be­fore hand­ing over your credit card de­tails. Not also that the gov­ern­ment is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing tax­ing even small pur­chases such as mu­sic down­loaded from iTunes and overseas Net­flix mem­ber­ships – with mur­mur­ings that changes could start tak­ing place be­fore Christ­mas this year.

4. A com­mon com­plaint about on­line shop­ping is that what turns up on a doorstep some­times looks noth­ing like what was ad­ver­tised in pho­tos. The Con­sumer Guar­an­tees Act pro­tects buy­ers pur­chas­ing prod­ucts in New Zealand but the same pro­tec­tion may not ap­ply to overseas pur­chases and many lo­cal in­surance com­pa­nies might not cover them ei­ther.

5. The qual­ity of pack­ag­ing can vary greatly. Get­ting a re­place­ment or re­im­burse­ment for dam­aged goods could see you jump­ing through all sorts of hoops. The only way to guar­an­tee the con­di­tion of your pur­chase is by pick­ing it up from a store your­self.

6. Nip­ping into a phys­i­cal store and buy­ing what you need when you need it is al­ways more re­li­able than or­der­ing it on­line. Plus, you can feel good about sup­port­ing your lo­cal com­mu­nity and the Kiwi econ­omy.

Fill­ing your shop­ping trundler with the real deal could some­times be a safer bet than go­ing off­shore and on­line.

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