Internet shopping has become a popular way of browsing without the hassles of car parking and crowded shops, and with the added excitement of a potential bargain.
But a recent client of ours, Lisa, got a lot less than she bargained for when she spent $500 on an iPad which never arrived.
There are a few simple tips you can follow before you hit the checkout button to make sure you don't get caught out as Lisa did.
Always check that the site is secure. The URL (website address) needs to start with "https" instead of just "http", and there should be a padlock icon showing.
Check whether you are dealing with a New Zealand business, which gives you far more consumer protection.
If you're buying overseas, take a close look at the website's terms and conditions:
Do they have easy to find contact details, including an address and phone number?
Look for a warranty statement. Does it give you a money back guarantee, or does it transfer the risk to you?
Does the company take responsibility for the item getting damaged or lost in the mail? See if insurance is available and consider taking it for big items.
Buying with your credit card can be safer than other payment methods, as you can get the card company to reverse the payment. There's usually a short time limit, so act promptly.
Above all, remember the golden rule - if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!
Dr Andrew Hubbard is national research and policy adviser at the Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Sunday News