We've all heard how great Internet Shopping can be; that you can get things far cheaper as the shops don't have to pay expensive overheads.
How convenient it is - you can shop when you want to. How there's a much broader range - you can find specialist items on the Internet you'd never find on the high street. How it's easy to compare prices, and how there are no queues and plenty of parking online!
Most e-commerce shopping sites use some sort of shopping cart - this is your virtual trolley into which you can place items, then take them to the checkout when you want to pay.But before you start shopping on the Internet there are a number of questions you have to ask yourself.
- Do you trust the retailer you're buying from?
- What are their delivery times?
- Can you contact them if the order goes wrong?
- Are there any hidden charges?
- Are you confident your payment will be kept secure?
Secure Online Payments
Secure encryption sessions between your computer and a merchant's website and keep your data safe when interacting with 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 get a better idea of who they are entrusting it to.
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 will also have a notification area that informs you - either visually, audibly or both - when you enter and leave a secure server. Over the last few years, web browsers (such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, Opera, Safari and many more) have diversified in look and usability so much that the methods used to notify you when you access a secure connection vary significantly in each browser.
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 (where you see 'http://www.shopsafe.co.uk') along the top of the screen.
Examples can be seen here:
Google Chrome (address bar)
Mozilla Firefox (address bar)
Internet Explorer (far right of address bar)
Opera 9 (address bar)
Safari (far right of address bar)
A new type of secure server certificate, known as "extended validation" certificates will change the colour of the address bar to green when the certificate is valid.
Invalid Certificates / Insecure Sites
Some Browsers (such as Internet Explorer) will warn you if you ever try to access an invalid, expired or revoked certificate. If you choose to ignore this warning and proceed to the site, your address bar will turn red.
If your address bar turns red or none of the above happens*, then this is not a secure server - don't enter your credit card details. Don't be afraid to email the vendor and ask them a few questions to put your mind at rest!
If you use a credit card to pay for items that are worth in excess of £100 (and up to £30,000) then the company that your card is with is also liable for any problems as well as the company you purchased the item from.
Electronic Payment Systems
For smaller purchases an electronic payment system, such as PayPal, is one of the common alternatives. These systems allow you to send or receive payments securely over the web without sharing your financial details or credit card number with anyone else.
To open an account go to the PayPal website and choose 'sign up now' and then you can put money into the account using your debit card to use for future shopping.
Your Consumer Rights
When you purchase goods and services over the Internet, you will have more legal rights than you may realise. In fact. you will probably have more rights than if you purchased it in a high street shop.
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
10 Simple Tips For Safe Online Shopping
Just like giving your credit card to a waiter or paying for petrol at the garage, so long as you take some basic precautions shopping online is safe to do. You should:
1. Always check the final total of your order before confirming
Added charges and voucher codes that haven't registered correctly can sometimes mean that your final total is not what you thought it would be. Always check before confirming your payment.
2. Check the delivery times and prices
Although most websites offer free delivery these days, you can be stung by extra delivery charges in the later stages of the checkout process.
3. Pay by credit card
Paying by credit card can give you extra protection as you will have insurance on your credit card purchases.
4. Log out properly
If you share a computer with someone or use it in a place where it could be manipulated then remember to logout of your account.
5. Check for contact details
Look for an email, a phone number and/or an address that the business trades from. Make sure you can contact them if your order goes wrong and that they have an aftersales policy.
6. Bulk buy to save on delivery
Order more than just one item at a time to save on delivery costs. Items you need in bulk such as toilet rolls and baby nappies can help you make a large saving over time.
7. Become members of websites
Being a member might entitle you to future discounts as well as being notified about exclusive special offers.
8. Look for a secure server
We talk more in detail about this on our what to look for section.
9. Don't store your details
Many shops will ask you if you would like to save your payment details for future purchases. Although this makes purchasing easier, it means that your payment details have been stored in a database somewhere which makes it possible to be stolen.
10. Look for the ShopSafe logo
If you see a ShopSafe logo on the web site then you know we've done the hard work for you, checking that the site is safe to shop at.
If It Goes Wrong
If you've bought an item from an online shop and it hasn't arrived or is late then you are covered under the Sale of Goods Act.
In this act it states that goods should be delivered within a 'reasonable time'. Check the stores delivery terms to find out their estimated delivery times and you can judge whether it has been a reasonable time.
You will need to contact the store and claim a refund under the The Consumer Protection Regulations. Remember, if you cancel your order before your item has been received then the store will also need to refund or pay the cost of returning the item.
However, if you have paid for a special type of delivery, e.g. Next Day Delivery, that was never fufilled then you will be eligible to get a refund for the cost difference of between standard delivery and the upgraded delivery costs.