By Mark Teale – Retirement Strategies and Solutions

As we get closer to Christmas, our thoughts turn to shopping for the holidays.

As a modern and technologically advanced society, a large percentage of our Christmas shopping will be done online – depending if we start early and allow enough time for our purchases to be delivered.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have issued guidelines to protect your rights and hard-earned savings.

The following is an extract from their website, outlining your rights and tips when it comes to purchasing gifts over the internet:

Online businesses selling goods and services must:

  • ensure products and services meet Australian safety regulations
  • not mislead you or hide costs and other details from you
  • compete fairly to ensure a variety of choices on quality and price
  • give you automatic guarantees with the right to ask for a repair, replacement, refund, cancellation or compensation as appropriate if there is a problem
  • have the right to sell you a product – it mustn’t be stolen and must belong to the business or individual and not come with any outstanding debts

The following tips will help protect your rights when shopping online.

  1. Only consider buying from online sellers in Australia or overseas that:
  2. have a good reputation
  3. display clear processes for solving problems and giving replacements and refunds
  4. display clear systems for protecting the security and privacy of your personal and financial details
  5. display their business registration number, phone and fax numbers and physical address
  6. Before buying, check terms and conditions carefully so you know what you’re paying for and that there are no hidden costs or restrictions
  7. Before you start, ensure your computer, tablet or phone is secure by installing or updating security and anti-virus software
  8. Shop around. Ask questions and ask for pictures so you know what you are getting. Compare prices on different sites
  9. Before paying:
    1. beware of sellers asking for your bank PIN or password. Never buy from these sellers. Report them to the ACCC
    2. check that the site is secure. It should have a padlock symbol and an address starting with https://
    3. ensure that you can check the progress of your order online
    4. consider using a third-party escrow agent to pay for valuable items as they’ll hold the payment in trust until you receive and accept the item
  1. Keep copies of all documents, including electronic records of auction bids, item descriptions, emails and receipts in case there is a problem later.
  2. If there is a problem, email the seller outlining the issue and how you want it resolved.
  3. If you paid by credit card and you did not receive the product or service, contact your bank and ask them to reverse an unauthorized charge.

I am not saying that if you follow this advice your purchases will be completely worry free, but the steps should reduce the risk and some of the worry.  By following these tips, all you would have to concern yourself with is, “how do I pay for the purchases?”.

If you are looking for more information on your rights as a consumer, the ACCC’s Consumer Rights Guarantees may be helpful.