Internet shopping tips

With the increased use of the Internet, shopping is becoming a truly global experience, with more and more consumers turning to their computers to buy things like software, CDs and books.

Like mail order, people appreciate the convenience of not having to traipse around the shops, and can browse among a huge choice of goods in their own time.

But shopping on the Internet can bring its own problems too. Check out our Top 10 Tips for safer on-line shopping:

  1. Be careful when you give your credit or debit card details on the Internet. Always find out whether the company has a secure site. Look for websites that have a secure way of paying (known as an encryption facility) - these show a padlock at the bottom of the screen when you are filling in the payment details.
  2. Ideally, try to trade with well-known companies, or those that you have done business with before, or that have been recommended to you.
  3. Make sure you get an actual address and landline telephone number for a company, not just their email address or mobile phone number. Don't assume an internet company is based in the UK just because its web address has 'UK' in it - check out the physical address and phone number.
  4. As with any other type of purchase, shop around for the best deals and prices.
  5. Watch out for high postage rates and for other hidden costs, such as VAT and other duty payable, particularly if goods are being sent from abroad.
  6. Remember, goods being sent from abroad may take some time to be delivered. Check with the trader how long this will take, and set a delivery date that you must have them by, if that is important.
  7. Check what the company's policy is on returning goods that you don't like or have changed your mind about. Again, if they have come from abroad, you may be faced with a hefty postage bill to return them.
  8. On the subject of buying from abroad, remember that if you have problems like faulty goods or non-delivery, it might be very difficult to get your complaint dealt with. Your contract will be in the country where the trader is, and it obviously isn't very practical to have to take legal action abroad.
  9. For that reason, only buy very expensive items from companies outside the UK or Europe if you know them well - that way, if things do go wrong, you limit the risk. Although shopping from overseas websites is relatively safe it may be difficult to enforce your contract if things go wrong. If the item or service is over £100 then consider paying by credit card as this gives you additional rights under the Consumer Credit Act.

Most importantly, print out the order, and keep any terms and conditions that appear on the web site, just in case of any disputes or problems later on.

Check whether the company has a privacy statement that tells you what it will do with your personal information.