Placing Orders Online

August 18, 2017

Nowadays, consumers prefer online shopping when it comes to purchasing goods simply because it is convenient with the click of a button. Whether you are looking for a holiday package, air tickets, pair of shoes, kitchen and home wares, clothes, specialist food items or the fairy tale bridal dress for wedding – you can buy them all online without having to visit shops and malls.

Starting an online business seems too easy nowadays where people create a page on social media, post few pictures of the items they wish to sell, and they are in business. However, this should not be the case. Consumers need to check whether the online business they are dealing with is registered and legitimate.

Whilst life has been made easier with online shopping, consumers must be mindful when shopping through social media sites, particularly Facebook, they will be unable to try on the clothing or footwear to determine the correct size or even test electronic goods before purchase.

The Council continues to receive complaints from consumers who engage in online shopping. In the past five years, the Council registered staggering 271 complaints with a monetary value of more than $92,000. From the complaints, it has been noted that online shopping via social media is quite popular and there are numerous sites selling all sorts of goods locally as well as offshore, providing wide choices to consumers.

In a recent case at hand, Lusiana decided to order customized t-shirts that were advertised on social media to support her former school at this year’s prominent secondary school’s athletics competition. She paid $90.00 for the t-shirt and was given assurance by the administrator of the online business that she would receive the t-shirt before the competition. Unfortunately, on the day of the event, the t-shirt was not received and Lusiana had to resort to her casual attire for the event. She was very disappointed that she could not wear the t-shirt as planned. Since the purchase failed to serve its purpose, Lusiana then lodged her complaint with the Council and after the Council’s intervention, the online trader provided her with a full refund. If timely payments are being made, then traders need to ensure they also deliver on time.

Consumers are protected in such cases. Failure to supply the item after receiving payment is a breach of Section 88 (1) (b) which states: “A person shall not, in trade or commerce, accept payment or other consideration for goods or services where, at the time of the acceptance there are reasonable grounds,of which the person is aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, for believing that the person will not be able to supply the goods or services within the period specified, within a reasonable time.”

However, the situation will be different if consumers buy from an online seller based overseas. In such cases, you may experience practical difficulties in obtaining a remedy from them. If you are not successful in getting redress, we suggest that you write to the consumer protection agency in that country for assistance.

Alternatively, the Council is reiterating its call to consumers to be cautious when buying online. Consumers can practice their rights and responsibilities by being mindful of the following when engaging in online shopping:

  • Pay securely. Only use websites that your browser recognizes as secure. A secure address begins with a URL starting with https:// or an image of a closed padlock will appear in the bottom right corner of your browser window.
  • If an online retailer does not provide or allow payment through a secure payment service such as PayPal or a credit card transaction.
  • Buy online from a company only if they have a refund or return policy, and that their policies are just and fair. Also find out how they resolve disputes in case something goes wrong.
  • Search the website name with the word ‘scam’ to see if anyone has posted reviews or alerts about the business or website.
  • Check all comments about the seller you are considering buying from.
  • Use an ‘escrow’ service’. It helps make transactions more secure by keeping the payment in a secure escrow account which is only released to the trader or seller when you have confirmed that the product has arrived and is what you paid for. There is usually a small fee for this service.
  • Keep records. Print your order before and after you confirm. Write down any reference numbers, and print any receipts that display on screen or are emailed to you.

Consumers who feel they have been duped by online traders are encouraged to lodge their complaints with the Council in person or call the National Consumer Helpline toll free number 155.