Shoppers are being warned to avoid a nightmare before Christmas by exercising caution when buying gifts online.
Consumer Affairs Victoria was contacted 7,082 times about issues with online shopping in 2015-16.
Goods that weren’t supplied, or were only supplied in part, topped the list of concerns with 1,308 reports, followed by major failures or defects (946) and issues with refunds or returns (835).
Clothing and footwear was the most problematic product (666), with holiday accommodation (356) and mobile phones and accessories (345) rounding out the top three.
Australian-based online retailers must comply with the Australian Consumer Law, which guarantees a refund, exchange or repair if a product is faulty or unsafe, doesn’t match its product description, or never arrives.
However, overseas retailers must only comply with the consumer protection laws of their own country, which sometimes offer limited safeguards.
Tips when shopping online include:
- Pay by credit card so that you can seek a chargeback from your bank and avoid potential problems obtaining a refund
- Do your research to ensure you only deal with reputable businesses – reading up on business reviews and warnings could save a lot of pain
- Protect your financial details by only making payments through secure sites. A secure internet address starts with https instead of http
- Read and understand details like delivery timeframes and the store’s refund, return, exchange and repair policies – businesses are not legally required to offer a refund, return or exchange for change of mind
- Keep copies of all electronic documents and receipts in case there is a problem later.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz
“Online shopping is a great way to find the perfect present without battling Christmas crowds, but it’s important to do your homework before you click ‘purchase.’”
“Following simple steps like only using trusted websites, checking delivery details, and paying by credit card means you won’t be caught out on Christmas day.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020