Basic Safe Internet Shopping Tips & Advice
The Internet can be a very quick, cheap and efficient way to shop online. This mode of shopping is extremely prevalent and is continuing to grow in popularity year upon year. Sometimes it can be easy as one click to make an order. However, before you start browsing and purchasing items, it's best to at least arm yourself with some basic key safe Internet shopping tips. Knowing your rights and how to protect yourself from scams, fraudulent activity and unscrupulous sellers is paramount in enjoying a safe and successful Internet shopping experience.
1. Know Your Basic Consumer RightsBefore you even switch on the computer, you should be aware of your basic consumer rights, and how they apply when shopping online.The Sale of Goods Act (1979) stipulates that a business should sell goods that are 'as described', 'fit for purpose' and of 'satisfactory quality'.
Firstly, the E-Commerce Regulations (2002) specify that a business trader, supplier or seller should also provide key information to the consumer. This information includes a geographical address - not a PO Box number - and the name of your business, and any other contact details such as a telephone number and valid email address. Secondly, the business should also provide the details of any register, trade association or professional body that they belong to, as well as listing any giving details of any authorisation scheme that the business is subject to. If applicable, a VAT registration number should be clearly displayed on the website.Finally, the seller must give unambiguous information regarding the price of the goods or services that are on offer, as well as providing the consumer with all otherwise hidden charges such as supplements, taxes, delivery and handling costs.
The Distance Selling Regulations also require the seller to present the consumer with other important information. Basically, these include written details of the seller's address and the terms and conditions of the contract you have entered into, a written confirmation of your order (usually by email or post), and provision of a notice of the consumer's cancellation rights. They should also make the complaints procedure and any guarantees or after sales services clear to you. If no delivery date has been agreed prior to confirmation of the contract, then the seller has 30 days in which to dispatch your items to you.
Further to this, the regulations entitle the consumer to a cooling off period of seven working days from when the items are received. Lastly, if you change your mind regarding the purchase, even after delivery you are entitled to a full refund and to cancel the contract within 30 days.
However, if you have had items personalised or tailored specifically for you, or have stipulated a specific date or specific period, then your cancellation rights do not apply. Similarly, if the items are perishable, such as flowers or food, or sealed as in the instance of audio/visual and software items, you will not have full cancellation rights. Online auctions are also not subject to these cancellation rights.
2. Choose Your Seller WellAs aforementioned, under UK and EU legislation, authentic sellers are required to provide the consumer with all the prior information before they confirm their purchase. You should check that the online store that you are intending to purchase from has made all these key pieces of information available to you. If you are at all suspicious of the authenticity of the store, you can always follow up with a cursory phone call or check them out with any trade association or accreditation scheme that they claim to be a part of.
It is particularly important to check out the registered business address of your seller. If they are not based in the UK, then all the rights that you are currently entitled to under UK law will not necessarily cover you.
3. Protect Yourself and Your PCTo help protect yourself against fraudulent activity, you should always make sure that you are making your transactions over a secure server and network. In terms of shopping online, the website address should display the prefix https:// (the 's' meaning secure) as well as displaying a small padlock symbol on the bottom of the web page window. Your PC should be protected with anti-virus software, as well as a firewall to block attempts to infiltrate your computer to access passwords or personal information.
If using a wireless network, make sure that it is encrypted so that nobody else can steal your bandwidth or use the network. You should always use what are known as 'strong' passwords - never use yours of your family's date of birth, or a common sequential password such as 12345679. Don't use a password more than once, and try not to store the passwords on your computer.
For purchases above £100, using a credit card will also afford you some extra protection, as some credit companies will also be liable for goods should something go awry.
4. Ignore Scams and PhishingFrom time to time you may receive emails or letters directing you to a certain website address. Sometimes the messages may seem garbled, addressed to someone else, or entirely irrelevant. Some may advertise wonder items or pharmaceutical products that seem too good to be true - and usually are. It is best to ignore these emails, and mark them as spam.
Phishing emails are a little trickier - sometimes they can appear to be authentic and from larger well-known companies such as eBay or PayPal. Always check the address of the sender of the email against the email given on the website. Remember that you will never be asked to send personal information such as your credit card number to the sender of the email. Also bear in mind that usually you would not be expected to send or change your password through an email.