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Tips for buying online

Shopping online can be cheaper and more convenient for you and for businesses. However, make sure you understand your rights and the risks before you shop online or bid in an online auction.

The following clip explains what to look out for when you shop online.

Safe online shopping tips

Pay securely

Don’t make any payment unless:

  • you’re on a secure website
    and
  • you can make a secure payment.

This will protect you against fraud and unauthorised credit card transactions.

A secure website address will always:

  • begin with ‘https://’, not ‘http://’
  • display the image of a closed padlock (usually in the bottom right corner of your browser window).

Only make a payment if you can see both of these things.

Never give out your bank account details, credit card number or other personal details if you are not certain that the business is a reputable trader.

Know the business

Only buy from websites you know and trust. Check that the company has a physical street address and landline phone number. If the company operates from overseas, you might have trouble getting a refund or repair.

Know the product

Make sure you check whether:

  • the product is legal
  • the product will work in Australia
  • any warranties or guarantees offered are valid in Australia
  • the product has an authorised repairer nearby.

Check the contract

Make sure you read and understand:

  • the terms and conditions of sale
  • the refund policy
  • the delivery details
  • returns and repairs policies, including any associated costs.

Check the full cost

Be aware of the full cost of your purchase. Additional costs may include:

  • currency conversion
  • taxes
  • postage and delivery fees
  • packaging.

It might end up being cheaper to buy the product at a local shop.

Protect your privacy

Only buy online if you are comfortable with a business’s privacy policy. Do not give out information unless they require it to complete the sale. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Beware of scams

Scammers target online shoppers. SCAMwatch gives information on how to protect yourself from online scammers.

Confirm the order

The business should ask you to confirm your order before paying.

Keep records

Always write down any reference numbers and print out copies of:

  • the order form (both before and after you confirm the order)
  • receipts (can come by email or in a pop-up window).

Always make sure all charges are correct by checking the receipt against your:

  • credit card statement
  • merchant account statement (such as PayPal)
  • bank statement.

The charges may be converted from another currency.

Address any problems

If you have any problems, contact the business right away. Most major sites have a dispute resolution process that you can use. If you are unhappy with the response, you can make a complaint to us.

Buying from overseas

Australia’s consumer laws may not apply if you buy online from an overseas business. If something goes wrong, it might be hard to enforce your rights and get your money back. Be very careful about buying things this way.

Find out:

  • if you can get a refund and how to do this
  • if you are ordering from a reputable business
  • if the products meet the safety standards of their country of origin
  • if you have access to after-sale support.

When you buy from overseas, you are importing goods into Australia. You will need to think about:

Electrical goods

Always make sure that electrical items (including toys) meet Australian safety standards. They should have a 240 volt plug wired to the product.

More on electrical safety

Online auction sites

Most online auction sites (like eBay) offer a dispute resolution process for buyers and sellers. This should be your first step to resolve a dispute if:

  • you did not receive the items you bought
  • you did not receive payment for items you sold
  • you received items that were significantly different from their description.

The eBay website has an example of this facility.

More advice

These agencies can tell you more about online shopping:

Last updated
15 March 2016

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