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MSE’s Academy of Money
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13 Being a smarter online shopper

The figure is a photo of a young women sitting at a table in a café holding a credit card and a mobile ‘phone as she makes an online transaction.
Figure 9 Take care when providing your credit card details

Here are some useful tips for consumers buying online, although many tips on buying online are the same as for buying from a shop.

  • Make sure you don’t just visit one site before you buy. That great deal might be on offer somewhere else – and cheaper.
  • Use retailers and services you know about – or ones that have been recommended to you by a trusted source like MoneySavingExpert. If it’s a site you’ve not used before, check out reviews online on sites like Trustpilot and Feefo. Have other customers reported good experiences using the site?
  • A company might have a great website, but that doesn’t mean it’s law-abiding.
  • Make sure you know the trader’s full address – especially if the company is based outside the UK. The internet makes buying from abroad easy so it’s important you know your rights.
  • 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.
  • Take into account the shipping, postage and packing costs. Weigh them up against the parking and travelling costs you would have to pay if you went to the high street.
  • Although shopping from overseas websites is relatively safe, it may be difficult to enforce your contract if things go wrong. Consider paying by credit card, especially if the item you’re buying costs more than £100, as you then get Section 75 protection, meaning you can claim from the credit card company if anything goes wrong. Buying for under £100? You’ll still get chargeback protection
  • If you are thinking of buying from an overseas website, check the costs you would incur if there is a reason to return the goods. These costs may be very high.
  • Look for websites that have a secure way of paying (known as an encryption facility) – these show a padlock, as noted in the previous activity, before the web address or at the bottom of the screen when you’re filling in the payment details. Also check the web address starts with ‘https’ rather than just ‘http’.
  • Check whether the company has the privacy statement that tells you what it will do with your personal information if this is collected. This is required under the GDPR.
  • If buying from an auction site, check the seller’s reputation. Be careful, some traders will make up accounts and post good comments about themselves. Look to see how many transactions the person giving feedback has carried out online; a number next to their name will indicate this.
  • Be wary: if the price is too good to be true, it usually is.
(Adapted from Callaghan et al., 2012, pp. 109–10)