There is no doubt that online shopping is the best way to do shopping these days; it is easy and you can secure amazing deals online, but there is also no doubt that online shopping has risks. It’s hard to know when a company is trustworthy; you could end up paying for goods that never arrive, and who knows what happens to the personal information you provide before you buy?
Things like this can make online shopping scary but with some simple precautions, shopping online can be relatively trouble-free, so before you buy anything online, make sure you ask the following questions.
Who am I dealing with?
Information about the trader should be clear. You should have either their email or phone contact details, and be able to check on its reliability. How long has the person been in business? What is their customers saying about them?
How much is it going to cost me?
The price should be clearly displayed and include all costs – look for information about delivery charges, taxes and currency conversion. Also check for all hidden costs and “terms and condition apply” costs.
What am I buying?
You should be able to easily identify the product. This is especially important online because you often can’t see the goods themselves. Make sure that the product and it’s terms and conditions are clearly stated. Conditions include: is the product new or used, is it showing any signs of wear, etc.
Is there stock available?
Stock availability should be displayed clearly.
What delivery methods are available? Are there different options for delivery methods and prices? Will they deliver to my country/location?
You should be provided with information about options and prices for different delivery methods.
How do I know when I’ve confirmed my order?
There should be a clearly defined ordering process for you to follow. You should also receive a receipt of the order, either by email or in the post.
How can I pay for my item?
Payment options available should be clearly displayed. Expect the majority to accept credit card, with some stores also accepting third party payment like Paga, SimplePay, Paypal, non-internet payment, debit card or Cash On Delivery (COD).
What personal information are they asking for? What will they do with it?
Only information needed for the sale should be requested. If you’re asked for personal information, there should be an explanation of how the information will be used, and who it will be given to.
Where can I complain if something goes wrong?
Contact the online store using the information provided in the website’s Contact Us section. If you can’t locate a Contact Us section on the website, or receive no replies or action from your email and/or phone complaint, try locating the company on social media. You can do this by putting the online retailer’s name and “Facebook” or “Twitter” into a web browser search. An example is “konga facebook”.
Once you’ve located their page, “like” or “follow” them and try posting your complaint on their social media page or sending them direct message if you will be adding some personal information.
Generally, the public-facing nature of social media makes companies more reactive to complaints. If your post is removed, don’t be afraid to re-post as many times as necessary. You can also drop a review of the store on their Facebook page but before you drop a bad review, contact them first.
If you don’t get a reply, get advice from your local fair trading/consumer affairs authority. In Nigeria, you can lay your complain to Consumer Protection Council – CPC.
The CPC is an agency of the Government under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment. Their contact information can be found on their contact page here or you can contact them via their Facebook page. Retailers of all kinds are required to follow strict guidelines when it comes to returns, exchanges, the quality of goods and the representations of goods through marketing and advertising.
How long will it take to get my goods?
Check for a stated target time for delivery, and that you’ll receive an email to tell you when it’s been dispatched.
I’ve got my goods, now what?
Your item should arrive in good condition, with an invoice and an explanation of how to return the product if necessary.
When do I pay?
Some merchant will not debit your card until you have received your orders. Some also use the Cash on Delivery payment method to collect money only when you have received your orders. The amount you pay should be what was stated when you ordered, with allowances for any currency conversion.
What if I don’t like the product, or it’s faulty?
The returns procedure should be easy to follow, with clear indications of the steps involved and who to contact if the returns procedure fails.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) requires retailers to accept returns if the product’s faulty or doesn’t match its advertised description. However, retailers aren’t required to accept returns if the customer changes his or her mind, though the better retailers tend to offer exchanges or store credit.
How much is it going to cost to return goods?
Any extra costs should be specified in the returns policy, so check before you finalize your transaction. There should be no additional costs involved in returning goods other than those specified.
Can I get a refund?
Most of the time, there should be no problems getting a refund. It should be just like regular shopping, provided you have the physical address of the trader. But it’s a lot harder to chase up a virtual shop – one without a bricks-and-mortar address. So you need to be extra cautious when shopping on lesser-known sites.
There are also some legal questions that may make getting a refund more complicated if you shop overseas, though most major overseas retailers will do the right thing.
Online shopping pitfalls to avoid
Fear of getting ripped off is one of top reasons Nigerians avoid shopping online, but there are several simple ways to avoid getting fleeced.
- Protect your details. Never give your personal password to anyone, including the business that helped you set it up. Legitimate businesses don’t ask for security details via email or phone.
- Have up-to-date security. Install antivirus software on your computer and keep it up to date. A good security suite will protect you against viruses, Trojans, spyware and other malware, along with phishing and other online scams.
- Use strong passwords. Don’t use the same password for different sites, and create strong passwords with a combination of letters and digits. Password management software can help.
- Look it up. If a website’s unfamiliar, research the company using web searches, read buyer reviews and call the contact number. Also, check the refund, returns, privacy, delivery and guarantee policies, just to be on the safe side.
- Don’t be diverted. Always re-check that the domain name matches the website. For example, www.shoping.com might be a fraudulent copy of www.shopping.com.
- Note contact details. If you have problems, being able to contact the retailer is crucial, so always note down the phone number and physical address of an online store before buying.
While many companies are doing their best to ensure the safety of their customers, you can also help yourself by applying these tips mentioned above when buying things online.
Always play safe!