What You Need to Know When Shopping Online
Know who you are dealing with
Reputable online merchants will post plenty of information about themselves, where they are located, their phone and fax numbers and details such as the following:
- Links to objective evaluations of their products and services, such as product reviews in magazines.
- Membership in organizations designed to guarantee standards, such as industry associations or the Better Business Bureau.
- Certificates or seals of quality.
- Other options for purchasing the products or services listed on the website (by phone, at store locations or through a catalogue, for example).
Know exactly what you are buying
The vendor should provide enough information for you to properly evaluate what you are buying, including details such as the size, colour, weight and texture of the product.
Know what you are agreeing to
Every time you choose to buy something online you are entering into a contract with the vendor. Any reputable vendor will provide the terms of this contract on its website. Read them and keep a copy for your reference. Insist on the following:
- Information detailed and complete enough for you to understand the terms of sale.
- An explanation of how the company handles complaints and returns.
- The delivery date for your product(s).
Be concerned in these cases:
- When the company does not provide the terms and conditions on its site.
- When the terms and conditions they do provide are so complex and detailed that they are difficult to understand, which may discourage you from reading them.
See also, "Contracts".
Know what you are Paying
- Make sure you ask for the total price, including tax, shipping and handling. International transactions may be subject to additional costs such as customs and border fees. Be sure to get a clear idea from either the retailer, or the customs broker the retailer uses, of how much those fees will be before you finalize your purchase. These fees can be quite expensive. For more information on fees, contact the Competition Bureau.
- Don't forget about the exchange rate. The charge on your credit card will likely be different from the quoted price as a result of it being converted into Canadian dollars.
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