ACCC offers tips to online shoppers – and retailers – before Christmas

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has advised consumers to exercise caution when shopping online in the lead up to Christmas, warning shoppers to be aware of their consumer rights and avoid the pitfalls of online scams.

As many online retailers move towards shipping cut-off dates for orders, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard gave advice to consumers to ensure a positive online shopping experience before Christmas:

Online shopping can bring consumers many benefits such as wider choice, savings in time, and potentially savings in costs as well. But it can also be confusing as consumers navigate unfamiliar selling platforms such as online auctions, figure out which reviews to trust, and try to pay securely.

All of your usual rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) apply when you shop with an Australian online business, including your right to a repair, replacement or refund. These rights may also apply when you buy from an overseas online business however you may experience difficulties enforcing them.

While targeted at consumers, Rickard’s comments remain relevant for retailers taking in more sales during the busy Christmas period, particularly when it comes to ensuring they abide by the Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC offered a list of five tips for consumers who are shopping online before Christmas — advice that is also useful for retailers to ensure they are looking after all aspects of the shopping experience for their customers.

The ACCC’s top tips for online shopping:

Research and shop around — have you compared products and prices for sale on other sites? Do you know the total price including delivery charges? How long will it take to receive your purchase? Do they provide FAQs and other tips on safety requirements or other purchase issues?

Know who you’re dealing with — is the business trusted and reliable? What do other consumers say about the business or the product/service? Does the business provide legitimate contact details?

Make sure you choose what’s right for you — price alone should not be the driving factor in making a decision about which business to buy from. There are many factors to keep in mind — is the quality ok? Does it meet Australian standards? How easy will it be to return if something goes wrong? What’s the business’ customer service like?

Keep your personal details private and secure — does the business have a privacy policy in place? Only pay via secure payment methods such as a credit card or similar secure method — when you go to make a purchase, does the web address start with ‘https’ and can you see a closed padlock symbol? If the only way to pay for something is via a money order or wire transfer, think twice as there is chance that you are being scammed.

If a problem arises — how easy will it be to right a wrong? What do you have to do to return the product if it’s unsafe, doesn’t meet its intended purpose or is not what you expected? Does the business have a good complaints resolution process in place?

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