Consumer protection professionals have issued a warning ahead of the Christmas shopping season as many alter ego websites will catch customers.
Dishonest traders show up every year, with the aim of making quick money from unsuspecting buyers, and with some people still nervous about shopping with the crowds, the CPCC has released some excellent advice for online shoppers.
The watchdog also warned of shipping delays and stockouts impacting your Christmas shopping plans.
Their warning read; âAt any time of the year, if there is a strong consumer demand for a certain product or service, it can be an opportunity for malicious traders to take advantage of it.
âSince many consumers can start their Christmas shopping earlier this year, the CCPC advises consumers to be particularly wary of merchants with popular, high-demand Christmas products for sale and to follow these simple steps before purchasing. “
Always buy from reputable retailers
It can be difficult to know who you’re buying from online, so it’s important to do some quick research – check reviews and social media pages.
Check where the business is based and if you can’t easily find this information, approach with caution.
If the business is based outside the EU, you should consider finding another store in the EU to make sure you have more solid rights if something goes wrong.
The buyer should be aware
If you come across a product that’s out of stock anywhere else, watch out for unfamiliar little traders who carry these in-demand products online or on social media.
Do some research, check online consumer forums and social media for additional consumer reviews or company comments before you buy.
Also, remember that while price matters, don’t let it be the only deciding factor when buying online – a cheaper price doesn’t always mean a better deal.
If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Beware of exclusively five-star reviews
When reading consumer reviews on company websites, beware if all the reviews are positive.
It’s important to keep in mind that products and services with genuine consumer reviews are more likely to have a mix of consumer reviews across the rating scale.
Browse the site before buying
Beware of bad English, like spelling and grammar mistakes, or a language that doesn’t sound right.
Just because a website has a .ie address does not mean that it is a registered business in Ireland.
You should also verify that the website lists contact information, including a contact email address, phone number, and geographic address.
You can also search for VAT numbers or business registration numbers, as this information can be verified on government and EU websites.
Reputable and legitimate businesses will always list ways to contact them.
If there is absolutely no contact information, beware.
Consider using online payment services, such as PayPal or a prepaid credit card, to prevent potential crooks from getting their hands on your bank details.
Prepaid debit or credit cards offer an added layer of protection as there is no direct withdrawal from your bank account.
Watch out for merchants who offer a wire transfer facility or those who ask you to pay by card over the phone or come to a store (sometimes a pop-up) to pay in cash.
When you pay, look for an ‘s’ after’ HTTP at the beginning of the URL and a padlock symbol in your browser’s toolbar that indicates the website is secure.
If not, be very wary of going any further. Finally, keep all records as it is important to have all the details of your interactions with the merchant in the event of a problem.
Check items as they arrive
If you buy online, don’t hide the boxes until Christmas.
Open the packages and check the items for any irregularities or problems as soon as they arrive.
If you buy children’s toys online, be sure to look for the CE mark on the product, in the instruction manual, or on the packaging.
The CE mark is basically the manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with EU safety regulations and standards.
If there is no visible CE mark, it may indicate that the toys do not meet the required safety standards and should not be used.