Get the most out of shopping online

Man using credit card to buy something online

Let's Talk MoneyIt’s likely that you’ve heard about the benefits of shopping online, even if you haven’t tried it. You can find a range of options quickly, so you have a better chance of getting a good deal, and it’s convenient to shop from home.

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 are like online department stores and sell all kinds of products, from books to electrical items to clothes.

web padlockPaying securely

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.

opens link in new window See this free guide on Internet security from Age Scotland partner Age UK for more tips on staying safe online.

Before you confirm your purchase, check whether there are different delivery options, as the costs may vary.

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.

Parcel and envelopeYour rights

Legally (under the Distance Selling Regulations), any item you buy online must be as the seller described it, of satisfactory quality, and fit for purpose – just as when you buy something on the high street.

If it isn’t, you’ll usually be entitled to a repair or a replacement. If you buy something online you have 7 days to cancel the order, even if there is no problem with it, and to get your money back within 30 days.

To do this, you should notify the seller in writing. If you’re sent the wrong item or it is faulty, you have the right to send it back and get a refund. If the seller is based outside the EU, you may not be covered by these regulations, but you still have the right to expect the item to be of satisfactory quality.

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.

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