However, perhaps you’re concerned about the security of buying things online, or overwhelmed by choices. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensuring you get the most out of internet shopping.
Which sites should I shop at?
All the major brands and most independent businesses have websites, so check to see if your favourite shop has one.
If you’re looking for a particular product, type the name of the item into a search engine such as Google so you can see which shops offer it and at what price.
If you want to compare prices, you can use price comparison websites - however, not all shops sign up to these, so it’s usually worth doing your own research too.
These sites sometimes get a fee from the company you end up buying from, but they should make this clear.
Websites such as Amazon.co.uk are like online department stores and sell all kinds of products, from books to electrical items to clothes.
Make sure that any site you shop at has ‘https’ at the beginning of its address when you reach the page where you pay, as this tells you it’s secure. It should also have a padlock symbol.
Many websites use a secure payments system, such as PayPal or WorldPay, which you need to sign up to first.
See our staying safe online guide for more tips
Before you confirm your purchase, check whether there are different delivery options, as the costs may vary. Some retailers can only provide a rough estimate of the time they can deliver by, and others may use all-day time slots, for example, deliveries between 9am and 5pm. This can be inconvenient if you want to go out or if you need a more specific time to make sure someone is with you or that you can get to the door on time.
Check out the delivery options and times carefully. Sometimes choosing a specific time slot for delivery or selecting a next-day, weekend or evening delivery may add on quite a bit to the cost of the purchase.
You may want to consider using a ‘click and collect’ option if the site offers one. This means you can usually get free delivery to your nearest branch of the shop you are buying from. Click and collect purchases usually arrive quickly, often the next day, and can be picked up in more flexible hours than some delivery slots.
If you are worried about getting a delivery or need help with shopping, you may want to contact your local Age UK to see if they offer a service where a volunteer could help you.
Buying from auction sites
If you buy from eBay or another website that allows you to bid like you would at an auction, you’re buying from a seller rather than from the website itself.
Check the ‘seller feedback’ as this will tell you whether they’ve been reliable in the past. If the seller is a registered ‘trader’ (someone who makes some or all of their living on eBay) rather than an individual, you have more rights.
Bear in mind that if you bid for an item and you’re the winning bidder, you’re obliged to pay for it.
Find out more about your rights when buying from eBay.
Your rights when shopping online
Legally (under the Consumer Rights Act 2015), any item you buy online, over the phone, by mail order, or from a TV shopping channel must be as the seller described it, of satisfactory quality, and fit for purpose.
If you buy something online you have at least 14 days after you receive it to change your mind and get a full refund.
If the items are faulty, then you have the same rights that you would have when buying items in a shop. These are:
|Up to 30 days
||You should be able to get a full refund
|Up to 6 months
||If the item can't be repaired or replaced you should get a refund for most items.
|Up to 6 years
||If the goods don’t last a reasonable amount of time then you may be able to get at least some money back.
You can’t return certain items though, these include food, earrings, underwear, personalised items, and CDs or DVDs where the seal has been broken.
If you buy something from a trader who is outside of the UK, different rules may apply depending on where they are based. Citizens Advice has more information on your rights when buying from an overseas seller.
If you buy something via the PayPal system, you’ll usually be able to get at least some of your money back. Making purchases with a credit card offers you more protection than using a debit card.