Key safe shopping tips | Buying from abroad | Safe payment | Data protection and unwanted e-mail |If problems arise
The internet - whether accessed through a computer, digital TV or mobile phone - offers convenience, choice, competitive prices and access to a wealth of information. Recent research shows that over the last 12 months around a quarter of consumers have shopped on line.
Yet many people lack confidence in internet shopping. The research found that 57% of consumers think they are very unlikely to shop on the internet in the coming year.
But by following a few simple tips, it is possible to shop safely online.
KEY SAFE SHOPPING TIPS
You should use sites you know or which have been recommended to you. You should also check all financial offers with the Financial Services Authority. For further advice go to the Office of Fair Trading, TrustUK or the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) websites.
Your high street rights apply
Your high street rights apply equally when buying over the internet as when shopping on the high street. So remember, goods must be of satisfactory quality and adverts and descriptions must not be misleading. BUT with auctions and private sales the general rule is "buyer beware". The Advertising Standards Authority and the Office of Fair Trading websites have further information.
Don't forget that you must be given key details before you buy such as the supplier's postal address. Also, items must be delivered within 30 days unless otherwise agreed. The DTI website contains more details.
Look for a closed padlock sign at the bottom of the screen. It shows that your details are protected when being sent.
Buying from abroad
If you buy from traders in EU countries you have many of the rights you have in the UK. Be aware that in the USA and elsewhere problems could be more difficult to sort out - so check the small print. Any international complaints can be directed to Econsumer.gov, or alternatively the Office of Fair Trading website provides helpful information. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help with EU complaints.
Duties and Taxes
In the EU, VAT is handled by the supplier but in the USA and the rest of the world you may need to pay customs, excise duties and VAT. HM Customs and Excise has useful advice.
If you use your credit card to buy online and the goods fail to arrive or are faulty, the card company should refund you for any single item costing over £100. For further information visit the Association for Payment Clearing Services or the Office of Fair Trading websites.
Data protection and unwanted e-mail
Remember, if you do not want your personal details to be used for direct marketing, you have the right to object. Your internet service provider or the Direct Marketing Association's e-mail preference service may be able to help. The Information Commissioner's website also has more information.
If problems arise
First, ask the supplier to put things right. Many suppliers are covered by schemes aimed at sorting out disputes without having to go to court. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau, Trading Standards Department or the Community Legal Service can advise further. The ICSTIS website might be helpful if you have problems with premium rate services. If you have concerns about unsuitable material on the internet or are worried about safe surfing for kids, the Internet Watch Foundation and Home Office websites have some useful advice.