Tips to help you through the web of online shopping

Searching for that perfect Christmas present but hoping to avoid the crowds? Online shopping could be the answer you’ve been searching for.

With recent technological advances and the growing popularity of portable devices such as smart phones and tablets, online shopping has become as simple as the click of a button.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, during the 2011/12 financial year, Australians spent more than $10 billion on domestic and overseas retailers online. And in the year to September 2013, Australia’s online retail spending totaled $14.3 billion.

Heritage Bank CEO John Minz acknowledged that online shopping had become a convenient choice, particularly with the range or goods and services available to consumers.

“Online shopping offers many advantages, there’s no need to worry about parking, you can shop at any time and your purchases are delivered to straight your door,” Mr Minz said.

“It also gives people access to a global marketplace where they can shop for goods in other countries without having to leave the comfort of their own home.”

But despite its advantages, Mr Minz noted the need for caution when shopping online.

“Online shopping can be a lot of fun and can help you to easily compare products and prices from a range of different retailers. However, there is a risk of online frauds and scams particularly during heavy shopping periods like Christmas.

“To avoid this risk, it’s important for consumers to be aware and have confidence in what they are actually buying, who they’re buying it from and that their account details are being dealt with safely and securely.”

To help you get the most out of your online shopping experience, Heritage Bank offered some handy tips.

1. Before you start, ensure your computer, phone or tablet is secure by installing or updating security and anti-virus software.

2. Research before you buy. Compare prices on different sites if possible and carefully check the product description, size, colour and value.

3. Check that the website you are buying from has a good reputation and clear transaction processes. Use customer reviews to get an idea of other people’s experiences and be wary of websites that look suspicious or offer deals to good to be true. 

4. Read all the fine print. This includes refund and complaints handling policies. Are there any hidden costs you’ll be hit with at the check-out? There could be conversion costs (for international purchases) or hidden fees.

5. Use a secure payment method that you can easily track such as PayPal, V.me, BPay, or your credit card. Avoid money transfers and direct debit where possible as these can be open to abuse.

6. Don’t send your bank or credit card details via email. Only pay via a secure web page that has a valid digital certificate. It should have a padlock symbol and an address starting with https://

7. Always keep a record of your purchase. Online stores should display a receipt at the end of a purchase –many stores will email you a copy. Either save this onto your computer or print a hard copy.

8. Know your rights. The Department of Fair Trading recommends on its website that when problems occur while online shopping, immediately enter into a dispute resolution process to facilitate communication between yourself and the seller. If you are unhappy with the response, you can make a complaint to the department.

Mr Minz said that many local retailers these days also had an online presence, which allowed you to have the best of both worlds.

“A lot of people like to support their local shops, so would prefer to buy from them if they had the choice. These days many local retailers do have an online presence, which means you can still support the local shops while also enjoying the convenience of shopping online,” he said.

“The internet has revolutionised the way we do shopping.

“Combined with conventional shopping methods, it has given people access to a higher range of product variety, convenience and potentially better deals.

“That’s only going to continue in future.”

* Based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. WARNING: This comparison rate is true only for the examples given and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate.