Yes. Internet Shopping is popular and it is hotting up. In 2005 spending on the internet in the UK totalled £19.2bn which was a 32 per cent increase on previous years. Recent figures show spending online is continuing to grow. All the relevant research indicates more and more consumers are growing confident about parting with their cash online.
Over 100,000 UK businesses now sell online.
The average Internet shopper spent £560 online in 2005.
As of 2006 Internet retail sales have risen by over 350 per cent in the UK in the last five years compared with a 20 per cent increase across the entire retail market.
The proof of the online shopping success story is the evidence of so many well known high street stores trading heavily online. In the UK when Tesco and M&S takes online shopping seriously you know it has arrived.
All the evidence suggests consumers love the convenience and fun of internet shopping as well as the huge savings on offer. And as the technology gets better and cheaper with more broadband take up more and more people are eager to join in.
The internet is an every growing market place for groceries. As supermarkets get in on the action you can have your weekly shopping delivered to your door following an order from your PC. The Internet is superb for travel bargains, clothes, insurance, computers and technology goods, most things. Shopping online saves you time, delivers competitive pricing, and cuts out on the boredom and energy expended with some shopping. Why lumber tins of food home by hand or carry a filing cabinet when someone else will do it for you and often for free? An advantage of online shopping is that if you buy online you can often get discount prices and free delivery
Internet shopping is done with debit cards or credit cards, or, on auction sites like Ebay, through proprietary financial accounts like PayPal for which you have to register and give your bank details. Beware there may sometimes be extra costs like packaging, postage and even customs duty if you are buying from abroad.
The risk of cards being used fraudulently on the web is small. Most web retailers use an encrypted page to protect your card details in transit. It is understandable to have concerns about buying online though but remember online buys should be a good option as long as you know exactly what you want, follow sensible precautions and use your common sense. Other advantages include the fact it is often cheaper to shop online because the seller has fewer overheads. It is also easy. If you are still concerned about buying online remember the best thing to do is to research before you go shopping, including the company reliability and what safeguards regarding payment are in place. As well as asking friends and family about their experiences with online sellers you can also read Review Centre's extensive reviews. More and more people are buying online as they realise their rights are protected in the same way as a high street purchase. You are entitled to a seven day cooling off period under UK consumer law after the goods are delivered so you will get a chance to check any online purchase and cancel and return goods. Reputable and established online suppliers such as Dell computers will provide an order confirmation via email as soon as you make your purchase. If you do decide to buy from a store online you have a wide choice of retailers. Many retailers are developing excellent reputations for service online and you will develop greater confidence in using them as time goes by. As with high street shopping always shop around to find the best deals. Remember, internet fraud does exist but the Internet is no more or less dodgy than other means of buying goods. If you research properly, and take sensible precautions including privacy software on your PC, and shop wisely following some of the following guidelines then you should have little problems.
Remember to always keep copies of receipts, order details, confirmations, emails and other correspondence from the supplier. Check terms, conditions and small print.
When buying online make sure the company has a contact address and telephone number no just an email.
Look for websites displaying trading standards logos, such as those of Which? Trusted Shops and TrustUK. Independent approval schemes such as TrustUK promote good online practices among their members.
If you are concerned about using retailers based abroad check if the company has an office in the UK or the country where you are based. Be wary of companies that only use a PO Box number. Do not use them unless they provide a full address. Don't assume a company is UK based because it has UK in its web address. Always check the full postal address.
If you are dissatisfied with your purchase or with any part of the service then contact the seller. If you are not satisfied with their response contact Citizens Advice or Trading Standards.
If you require credit always shop around as deals vary. And remember credit providers may share liability for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by suppliers.
Seek a trusted recommendation. If you have friends or relatives recommending an online product or service that's great but there's no harm in checking with Review Centre too. We have thousands of genuine consumers offering up-to-date advice on all manner of products and services online.
Shop around. Follow Review Centre links for price comparison tables.
Check the trader online if you have concerns. You can search the web to find out if there are any problems associated with that trader.
Always check for secure payment facilities known as 'encryption' facilities to ensure your online transactions are secure. Normally a padlock is displayed at the bottom of the screen.
Does the site have a statement guaranteeing privacy or saying what it will do with your personal information?
Be careful when buying privately because you have fewer rights. The only rule is that what you are buying must be as described if not ask for your money back straight away. Take someone with you if you go to look at goods to act as a witness to any conversations. Keep all correspondence. Beware of traders who pose as private sellers. In the UK this is illegal.
Online buyers report few instances of credit card fraud in which data has been taken while making an online transaction with a reputable website. There are scammers out there but there are similar risks with traditional mail order firms and even some high trader who will try it on. The risks are small though. The main thing is to know your rights and ensure you have written correspondence, contact details and privacy safeguards. Like shopping on the high street you should place more trust in 'reputable' stores rather than people selling off the back of a lorry. The same things apply over the web. Once you move away from established suppliers into untested and uncharted territory your risks increase.
Some extra tips for ensuring sites are secure are:
Remember, a padlock or unbroken key at the bottom of the browser window when you're typing in your credit card number means the information you are sending is encrypted and can't be read by other web users. If the site's address in the payment section begins with https this suggests the site is safe, offering encryption.
Never send your credit card details via e-mail.
Only use cards when dealing with stores you trust.
Check your credit card statement for any irregularities every month and contact the card company if anything looks dodgy.
Keep all written correspondence, emails, order numbers. Print off anything relevant.
Your consumer rights entitle you to a cooling off period during which an order can be cancelled without any reason and a full refund made.
You are also liable to a full refund if the goods or services are not provided by the date you agreed. If you didn't agree on a date, then you are entitled to a refund if the goods or services are not provided within 30 days. But these rights only apply when buying from a company based in the UK.
Remember, sending unwanted items back to the retailer is sometimes more costly than when buying from a high street shop because it involves repacking the goods and paying postage.
But be careful if buying on an online auction site because they can refuse to accept responsibility for the quality of the goods they auction. For auction sites, make sure you read the Terms and Conditions very carefully. Be aware that some internet auctions are only notice boards between private buyers and sellers - in which case your rights are the same as if buying from a private seller.
Remember an estimate is just an informed guess and not an exact quote for services rendered. A quote or 'quotation' is a fixed price and is binding so make
sure you know exactly what you are being offered for your money and ask for confirmation of the quotation in writing.
Always check if VAT is included. Remember, you have a right to certain standards. Reasonable care and skill should be taken and a job should be done to a proper standard of workmanship within a reasonable time frame. If you pay someone to fix your leaky roof it should not leak after the work has been done and they should come around and do it within a reasonable time. Always shop around to compare prices.
Be careful and follow your instincts. Never type your credit-card information into a computer unless youre sure it is protected. Unfortunately there are fraudsters out there trying to hack your credit-card details and personal information.
Stick to mainstream sites if possible such as well-known Internet sellers and online stores you can trust from well known high street retailers.
Look for that little yellow padlock that appears on the bottom of the browser window indicating security encryption.
Use a credit-card or disposable-card number rather than a debit card to limit your losses in the event of any potential problems.
Once you create an account with Amazon or PayPal never reveal your user name and password to anyone even if they claim to be from the company.
If what you have bought does not meet required trading standards you can tell the seller quickly if you want to be able to claim a refund. Set a deadline for the problem to be resolved.
If you find a fault later you can usually claim for a free repair or replacement.
Always make a record of any correspondence. Note down what is said on the phone with who and when. Have receipts and other relevant documents handy. If complaining in writing summarise when you bought the goods or services and how much they cost and outline the problem. You should be able to demand a full refund, replacement or repair without charge and set a deadline. Keep original documents and send copies. Use recorded delivery or other proof of postage.