Before buying online
Things to look out for
- Buying online can be a quick and easy way to shop, but even if you’re shopping from your own home you still need to take steps to protect yourself online. The golden rule is, if you have concerns about the website you are planning to buy from, do not enter your card details or proceed with payment.
- Most major credit card companies now have secure online systems to give you extra protection. This means that, before your transaction goes through, you will be asked for another password. If you are shopping online, you should look for sites that have this extra layer of security. Talk to your debit/credit card providers about what extra security they have.
- Using a public or shared computer or a public wireless network such as one in a coffee shop, train station or airport, may not be as secure, so it is important to consider this when shopping online.
- Research the website before you buy. Look for and keep a record of the phone number and physical address of the seller in case there is a problem with your purchase or your bill. Look for reviews of the website to see if other consumers have any positive or negative feedback
- If you are buying on an auction site, remember that they usually take no responsibility for the quality of the items for sale, or accuracy of the listings. Always check the terms and conditions of the auction website before making a bid. Many sites are self-regulated and use a star system to rate users so check the comments on a user’s profile before you buy from them to ensure they are reputable.
- If you are buying music, ebooks, apps or games, remember that sometimes you only need a single click to buy. This means you do not need to re-enter your card details every time you buying something. This could also mean that anyone who has access to your device could buy films or games on your tablet or phone
- Try to shop from websites that are based in the EU, because you will then be protected under EU law. If a website’s web address ends in ‘.ie’, it doesn’t necessarily mean the website is based in Ireland. So make sure to check the postal address of the seller before buying. Always read the terms and conditions and know exactly what you are agreeing to before you buy. Find out about the trader’s cancellation and returns policies if they are based outside of the EU.
- Beware of sites that have only recently been set up. Setting up a copycat website to sell fake goods only takes a few minutes and these sites often pop up and disappear very quickly. Often they have only registered recently, but may claim to have been around for a while.
- If you come across a website offering a great price but you don’t recognise the site, do some checks first – google the website name and see if they are mentioned in any discussion forums. Check they have full contact details including their address and a phone number so you know where they are and how to contact them. Check for information on delivery and returns and price.
- Always use a secure method of payment, such as a credit card or Paypal. Never send cash or use a money-wiring service, because you’ll have no comeback if something goes wrong. If you buy online, it’s a good idea to use Visa, Visa Debit or MasterCard as these normally offer a chargeback facility. The rules vary, depending on your card provider, but you may be able to get your money back if you have an issue with non-delivery or faulty goods. Before you request a chargeback, you should contact the trader and ask for a refund. If the trader does not refund your money and you paid using a credit or debit card, your card provider (usually your bank) may agree to reverse the transaction.
- Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Research the recommended price of the product you are looking for and be suspicious of websites which seem to be selling them for significantly less. If you are uncertain whether a site is selling genuine products, check with the manufacturer for details of authorised sellers.
Online deal sites/vouchers
To make sure you get a real deal, follow our top tips for online deal sites:
- Read the small print of the offer so that you are clear about what exactly you are buying. For example, if the offer is for a meal, check how many courses are included. That way you’ll know if you’re getting a good deal
- Check the availability of the deal and the expiry date: some voucher deals limit the times when you can use your deal – for example some restaurant deals may only be available midweek. Others say that the supply of the product or service will be at the discretion of the trader, which means you have less flexibility around when you use it. In this case, check with the trader about restrictions before you buy.
- Try not to buy a product just because it is on sale: The lure of special offers is that if you don’t buy straight away, you might never get such a good bargain again. Sometimes this might be true, so if the deal is for something you wanted or needed anyway, then it might make sense to pounce. But if the deal seems attractive just because it’s too cheap to miss, think twice before you buy
- Know who you are buying from: A cheap bargain might look like good value, but if it’s not up to the standard you expect, it might turn out to be a big let-down. It’s always good to have a clear idea of what you are buying, so if you don’t know the business before you buy, see if you can find some online reviews to give you an idea of how others have found the same deal
- Think about how soon you’ll be able to use it. A ‘voucher deal’ is similar to a gift voucher – once you have the voucher, if the business closes or changes hands, you have very little comeback. The best way to avoid losing out if a company closes down is to use your voucher as quickly as possible.
- Check the terms and conditions of the online deal site: Some sites offer very good returns policies and may even refund the cost of the voucher if you forget to use it
- If you are buying a voucher as a gift, don’t forget to pass on all the terms and conditions especially the expiry dates.