19 November 2013
Christmas shopping on the internet is fast and easy. European online shops offer consumers extensive selections and a possibility to find inexpensive deals. With the help of our checklist you can shop successfully on the internet, and avoid unpleasant surprises.
1. Check the webstore's background information.
It is not a good idea to trade on the basis of an e-mail address or post-office box alone! Can you find the company's name, street address, domicile, telephone number and e-mail address? On the internet you can find experiences of other buyers in chat rooms, or by googling the company's name.
2. Will the gift reach its destination on time?
A Christmas package that arrives after Epiphany will not bring the recipient the kind of joy that had been hoped for. If Christmas is coming soon, check the delivery times to make sure the gift arrives in time. If necessary, utilise the various options for express delivery. With their help, Christmas shopping is possible very close to Christmas, and it is possible to utilise possible last-minute offers. In previous years exceptional weather conditions (winter storms) in Europe have delayed deliveries from abroad.
3. Acquaint yourself with the general conditions of payment and delivery for online trading, as well as other contractual conditions.
In some online stores the products are inexpensive, but delivery costs add a significant increase to the bottom line. Also check the information about possible warranties and service.
4. Consider the adequacy and restrictions on the return and cancellation times for the Christmas season.
The cancellation time varies in different European countries between 7 and 14 days. Many online shops allow returns for up to 30 days. Read the terms of the agreement carefully, so you can be sure that you can return a gift that might be unsuitable after Christmas. The basic principle it is permissible to test, but not use a product without losing the right to return. However, the contract terms can include more detailed information on how a product can be tested. For instance, sealed sound or video recordings or programmes may not be returned if you have opened the seal. However, if the product is defective you have the right to have it repaired, exchanged for one that is not defective, a reduction in price, or the cancellation of the purchase without costs.
5. Who pays for the return costs?
If the product is not to your liking and you want to return it, be prepared to pay the cost of return postage. This could happen if Finnish legislation is not applied to the deal. However, many online shops offer customers free return postage, which can be seen in the terms of the order.
6. Can you get customer service in your preferred language?
Although an online retailer may have a website in your language, it could still be a foreign business, and you might not be able to get customer service in your language, or customer service in that language might be limited.
7. Consider your purchase.
If you do not understand the terms of the purchase, it is a good idea to give the matter more consideration and if necessary, make the purchase from a different online business.
8. Check the summary of the order.
Always read the summary carefully - that is, check the information about the products, their number and price, the method of delivery and the delivery costs, the delivery time, the total price of the order and the delivery address.
9. Pay the purchases preferably by credit card.
If you do you can ask for a possible refund through your credit card company if the seller fails to deliver the goods, for some reason. Paying a deposit using some other method is always a risk for the consumer.
10. Print out or save the order and all other dealings with the company.
Save the confirmation of the order, the terms of the contract, e-mail messages and all other communications with the company on your computer. It is better to communicate with the company via e-mail than by telephone, so you will have a record of everything that has been agreed. This helps clear up any possible problem situations.
If a problem arises, always contact the company first. If the matter does not get resolved with the company, you can also turn to the European Consumer Centre for advice if the company in question operates in another European country. In problems involving a Finnish company you can get help (in Finnish and Swedish) from a Consumer Advisor.
Further information on the matter in the newsletter:
More information about this and other current topics in the European Consumer Centre Newsletter 2/2013 (in Finnish).