Empowered with the ability to compare prices, avoid the crowds, save time on travel and have access to a 24/7 global marketplace, it’s no surprise that people love shopping online. Needless to say, the world of e-commerce – or commercial transactions conducted electronically on the internet – is big business.
However, like all things online, there is a darkside to online shopping that most people don’t consider until it’s too late. Even the biggest and best shipping companies and online retailers have their bad days, so there’s no way to ensure that you’ll get your hands on your purchase in time unless you pick it up from a store. Items get lost, detoured, damaged, or delivered to the wrong address more often than you can imagine.
If you’re shopping online, there’s also a larger risk of fraud: credit card scams, phishing, hacking, identity theft, counterfeit products, bogus websites, and other scams are unfortunately all too common, which is why it’s important to know your consumer rights in the event that you’re faced with a negative shopping experience.
Understanding Your Consumer Rights With E-Commerce
Many Australians make the mistake of assuming that their standard consumer rights don’t apply when they shop online. In reality, this is quite the opposite, as retailers and e-commerce traders are still bound by the same laws and legislation as traditional bricks and mortar outlets.
In simple terms, online businesses selling goods and services in Australia must –
- Ensure that the products and services meet Australian safety regulations
- Not mislead consumers or hide costs and other details from the general public
- Compete fairly to ensure a variety of choices on quality and price
- Provide consumers with 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 consumers a product – it must not be stolen and must belong to the business or individual and not come with any outstanding debts
However, those rights may not apply if you’re buying an item or service from overseas. When you buy from an overseas online business, you may find it difficult to get a repair, replacement or refund because the business is not based in Australia. What’s worse is the fact that there’s little to be done in terms of following up with them from a legal standpoint.
In an effort to help protect yourself, always do your homework before buying from an online website for the first time. Before making a purchase, check terms and conditions carefully so you know what you’re paying for and that there are no hidden costs or restrictions. This is particularly relevant when buying from an overseas trader, as customers can get caught off guard with extra costs linked to postage, currency conversions and even additional taxes.
Reputable traders will always have their contact details clearly available, and display clear processes for solving problems and giving replacements and refunds in the event that it’s necessary. Check that the operator also displays their business registration number such as an ABN, phone number, email address and their physical address if applicable.
In addition, a good online store will often proudly publish their reviews. Check the website for testimonials, along with third party avenues such as social media and Google Reviews. More often than not, these are unable to be modified or taken down by the online trader, so they often reveal a true picture of what the brand or business is like to deal with in the event that you require their assistance after a sale.
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