We all know how great Internet Shopping can be; after all, you woudn’t be here if not! You also know that 9 times out of ten you can get things online far cheaper than in high street shops, mainly because the online retailers don’t have the same expensive overheads as bricks & mortar stores.
Plus there’s the convenience of being able to shop when you want to or choose from a wider range (including specialist items not available on the high street). You can also compare prices across a number of stores and never have to worry about queues, or whether you’re running out of time on your parking ticket (assuming you’ve found somewhere to park in the first place!).
But despite all these positives, before you start shopping on the Internet there are a number of questions you should address. Amongst these are:
- Do you trust the retailer?
- Do they have a “secure” server?
- What are their delivery times/costs?
- Can you contact them if the order goes wrong?
- Are there any hidden charges?
Safe online shopping
Just like paying for a meal by credit card in a restaurant, or for fuel at the petrol station, you need to take some basic precautions when shopping online. These include:
- Printing out the order confirmation.
- Check delivery times and cost.
- Pay by credit card – this gives you extra protection on your purchases.
- If you are in a public place, don’t leave the computer unsupervised while shopping online.
- Log out of the website properly at the end of the transaction.
- Make sure you have adequate contact details to get in touch with the retailer in case there are problems with your order, and that they have an after sales policy.
Any Other Online Shopping Tips?
- Order more than just one item at a time to save on delivery costs.
- Check for any special offers, discount codes, free delivery offers.
- Try and get your goods delivered at a time when you will be there!
- Register an account at websites & sign up for promotional e-mails with discounts & spoecial offers.
- Use a cashback site to visit the retailer & get money back on your transactions.
- Don’t get carried away and spend more than you can afford, especially on credit cards!
Most Internet shopping sites use a shopping cart which is the virtual basket into which you can place items & take to the checkout when you want to pay. The actual checkout is where you will enter yopur payment details, so this must be on a secure server in order for your transaction to be processed safely.
Secure servers provide unique encryption sessions between your computer and a retailers website which keeps your financial data safe through online payment systems. Secure server certificates are created for a particular server, a specific domain and a verified business entity, which allows web site visitors to safely transmit sensitive information and know that the site is trustworthy.
Identifying a Secure Connection in your browser
When you access a secure server the address of the web site will change from ‘http://www…’ to ‘https://www…’ signifying that the site is secure.
Most web browsers also have a notification area that informs you – either visually, audibly or both – when you enter and leave a secure server. Because browsers have significantly changed over the last few years, the methods used to notify you when you access a secure connection can vary significantly in each browser, so you should be aware of how your preferred one displays secure web pages.
On older browsers you will most likely see a padlock appear along the status bar of your browser – this is most likely found at the bottom of the screen. On newer browsers the focus has shifted towards the address bar at the top of the screen.
Secure Server Providers
You can find out more about secure servers, encryption & certificates at the websites below:
You may also see these companies logos on websites which claim to have a secure server; in most cases you can click this logo for a real-time status check, supplied by the provider, which further verifies the merchant’s credentials.
Your Rights as a Consumer
The Distance Selling Regulations
Online retailers must:
- offer clear information about goods and services up front
- give written confirmation of purchases
- offer a ‘cooling off’ period where you can cancel for any reason within 7 days of receipt of goods and still get a full refund
- offer a full refund if goods don’t arrive by the date agreed (or within 30 days if no date was agreed).
The Sale of Goods Act
Goods you buy must:
- be safe and of satisfactory quality
- not be damaged or defective (unless this was pointed out in advance)
- be fit for the purpose
- be as described by the seller
- last for a reasonable length of time