Many people are nervous about shopping on the internet. Will their Credit/Debit Card Details be safe? Will they actually get the goods they order? Will they be able to do anything if it all goes wrong? All these are reasonable worries. Although you can never be 100% safe, there is much you can do to minimise the risks for shopping safely online.
Shop by Recommendation.
Many of you will read forums, even if you aren’t a member many forums allow you to search the posts. If you are thinking of buying from a particular website do a search on forums you frequent which allow discussions about other sites. Has anyone else bought from that site, what was their experience? If you have taken the time to join a Craft forum, and the rules allow it, the you can ask the other members. Hearing of others experience with the same company is probably the best information you can get. Especially if its people who you can be sure have no vested interest.
If you aren’t able to do the above then do a general search on the company using Google. There are risks in doing this. You probably wont know the people who are making comments about the company either on unknown forums, review sites or on blogs etc. You wont know if they have a vested interest either to support or rubbish the company.
What to Look For on a Site.
There are certain things a Web Site selling goods must have by law. This will vary country to country. On top of this there are things that are good to see because they give you confidence in the website. In this article we are mostly talking about UK law. You should check out the consumer law in your own country if you are worried.
Shopping Safely Online: Address.
This is the first thing I look for on a site I am thinking of buying off. In the UK this needs to be a geographical address. A PO Box or c/o address is not good enough for Distance Selling Regulations. There are a lot of sites selling goods whose only method of contact is an online form. Even if it weren’t illegal I wouldn’t dream of giving my money to a company unless I know where they were and how to get hold of them. You wouldn’t give your money to a bloke in the pub and trust him to come back with the stuff. (would you?).
The returns and cancellation policies should be clearly stated and comply with the relevant consumer law. I suggest, if there is even a mention of a re-stocking fee, then you leave the site immediately. Not only is this possibly against the terms of the Distance Selling regulations it’s not a nice way to treat customers.
Likewise information regarding postage and packaging costs and delivery times should be stated UPFRONT. Even if the postage is calculated by weight then a table should be shown of the costs associated to different weights and postage means. A customer shouldn’t have to go through the whole shopping process, including putting in personal information in some cases, before they can find out what these charges are.
Privacy information should be clearly stated. Are they going to hand over your details to anyone else? If you are going to sign up for “offers” from this, or any other company, it should be an opt in system, not an opt out one. You will be shocked at how many companies make money by selling your details on to another and get away with it through the “small print”.
Paying Method and Security.
Any page on which you are entering personal information should be secure. You should see a little padlock in your browser and the address should be an “https” one. If you are in doubt don’t give your details. If possible telephone your order through. (NEVER put you credit card details or anything else like that in an email, they are not secure).
Many sites take Pay Pal and Credit cards. These are a fairly secure way of paying as, if anything goes wrong, you can apply to those companies for a refund.
Shopping Safely Online: After Sales.
If anything goes wrong always approach the company before you do anything else. Ensure you keep the packaging, paperwork, emails and anything else to do with the order. Things do go wrong. Post goes astray, computers mess up etc. So the sign of a good company isn’t that nothing goes wrong but how they deal with it when it does.
If you get no joy from the company then write them a nice email setting out the issues and giving them 2 working days to respond constructively. If that doesn’t work the next port of call for most people will be their Credit Card company or Pay Pal depending on how you paid.
For those who have issues there are many websites geared towards helping consumers with problem orders. Having said that, in our experience, as long as you follow the basic guidelines above then the vast majority of orders are completed with no problem at all.
Shopping Safely Online.
Authored By: Bob Prentice.