There has been a huge increase in the number of stores online as consumers are more willing to make purchases over the Internet. Each Christmas/holiday season sees the percentage of seasonal spend done online increasing.
Shopping Cart Software
Shopping cart software can make the job of online purchasing very easy, and secure when correctly implemented. If you notice that your browser has been redirected from the store's site to a different site for payment this can be a good sign! If the site used for payment is that of a reputable payment processing company, and the browser is showing the padlock symbol (and the address in the address bar begins with "https://" rather than "http://") this indicates that the card details are transmitted in encrypted form. It is actually safer that your card details are entered on a form processed by the reputable payment processing company rather than given to the merchant directly. The merchant may not need to "see" your credit/debit card details in order to get paid. The merchant gets paid when you authorise the payment via the payment processing company's online form. The major credit/debit card companies have done a lot to strengthen the consumers' rights, and are continuing to reduce the risk of fraud.
Advice for Online Shoppers
From the perspective of the shopper, being able to locate and purchase the product or service you want without having to physically go around to various physical shops, enduring the traffic delays or queuing for public transport is a great time saver. Plus, the product is delivered to your door, and the prices available online can be significantly cheaper than those in the physical shops. It's no wonder that more and more people are turning to the Internet to do their shopping at stores online.
Online shopping not only offers good prices, it also gives shoppers access to a huge range of products, much larger than could be carried at their local stores. Online Stores may be the only places where a customer can find particular specialist or technical items.
Know your rights. These will depend on where you are located and the local laws that apply. Most juristictions have consumer protection legistation in force which requires the vendors to either repair or replace goods that are delivered to you in a faulty or damaged condition, or offer you a refund. For goods delivered by courier, it is always better to open the box and check the item before signing for it. For damage found after accepting delivery, contact the merchant and arrange to have the item returned. This should be done as soon as possible, as there is usually a short time period within which this must be done to be protected by legislation. A handy reference for consumers in the European Union is the Shopping Online Guide. Good shopping cart software, propery set up by the merchant, will have a section informing you of your rights, and what you should do in the event of receiving faulty/damaged goods, or should you change your mind soon after ordering
The right to cancel the order may be yours under applicable legislation (e.g. in the European Union, the Distance Selling Directive gives the consumer the right to cancel the order and return goods (if received) within fourteen days of receiving delivery. The consumer may have to pay for the cost of returning the goods. Certain types of goods and services are not covered by this legislation, e.g. personalised or customised goods, goods where the customer opened the manufacturer's seal (thereby making it impossible for the merchant to sell it "as new" to someone else), newspapers or periodicals, gaming or lottery services, the provision of services if that service has already begun, goods or services the price of which is dependent on fluctuations in the financial market which cannot be controlled by the supplier, food or drink, tickets for planes, trains and other transport services, concert tickets, hotel bookings, or auctioned goods
Customer may have fears about not knowing or trusting the online merchant. The vast majority of online merchants want the customer to be satisfied, and want to build a reputation of being reliable and dependable and for offering good customer service. With the advent of social media, any "bad press" for a merchant will quickly affect their sales. Furthermore, consumers will usually have recourse to their credit card companies (where they paid by credit card) whereby in the event of non-delivery of goods, they can, after trying and failing to get satisfaction from the merchant, request that the credit card company make a charge-back. A charge-back is where the credit card company reverses the payment to the merchant, and the consumer gets his/her money back, as it were. This is a "big stick" for consumers, and merchants can face additional charges from the card processors if they incur too many charge-backs. For more information: Credit cards and disputes with merchants.