Your guide to safe online shopping this Christmas season

Online shopping used to be a lot easier to avoid. However now with aspects such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, it can seem even harder to avoid if you want to get exactly what you’re looking for. 

As we all know, and many of us may have found out the hard way, online shopping is not always as straight forward as it seems. 

Internet hackers, online scams and an abundance of websites to choose from means that these days, even the most experienced online shoppers can get caught out. 

As people tend to want to want to get ahead of their Christmas shopping and now with potential delivery and production delays, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) are issuing a warning to all shoppers, extra early this year. 

CCPC are advising shoppers to follow these simple steps before buying online: 

  1. Always buy from reputable retailers:

It is very important to know and check who you are buying from. It can be quite difficult to be sure by just an initial look, so it’s important to do some quick research, check reviews and social media pages.  

Another thing you can do is to check where the business is based. If you are not able to find this information easily, then approach with caution. If the business you are buying from is based outside of the EU, finding an alternative EU store to buy from could ensure you have stronger rights should an issue arise.  

  1. Buyer be aware:

Coming up to the Christmas season we all know that there will be some products or toys that will be near impossible to get your hands on due to such insane demand. If you think you’ve struck gold and have come across a product that is out of stock everywhere else be careful – it most likely is too good to be true. Small unknown traders offering these high demand goods online or on social media, a lot of the time are scams.  

It is really important that you do some research, such as looking on online consumer forums and on social media for additional consumer reviews or feedback about the business before you buy. Also another aspect to remember is that while price is important, don’t let it be the only deciding factor when buying online. It’s vital to remember that a cheaper price doesn’t always necessarily mean a better deal – as we said above, if it looks too good to be true, it more than likely is! 

  1. Onlyfive-star reviews? Suspicious, here’s why:  

If you think about it in its most simple form, if everyone tried the same chocolate bar, there are bound to be people who won’t like the taste, are unhappy with the packaging or just the overall bar. It is the exact same when buying things online. If a product only has fire-star reviews, or only positive feedback, that’s a sign to do some more research, if not avoid the product all together. Services and products with authentic consumer reviews are more likely to have a mix of feedback across the rating scale. 

  1. Browse the website before you buy:

Some of the main indicators of a fake website or a potential scam are grammatical errors, poor spelling and language that just doesn’t sound quite right. 

Another important thing to note is that just because a website has a ‘.ie’ address, this does not mean it is an Irish registered business. Double check the website lists contact information, including a phone number, an email address and geographical address. 

If you are still not certain you can also look for VAT Numbers or company registration numbers as this information can be verified through government and EU websites.  

Reputable and legitimate companies will always list ways to get in touch with them, so if the website doesn’t have a ‘Contact us’ page, it could well be fraudulent. Additionally, if the site does have ‘Contact us’ page but only offers a form to fill out, be wary! 

  1. Pay securely: 

Online payment services such as Paypal or using a pre-pay credit-card are a great way to pay securely when online shopping.  

These options can help you to avoid potential scammers getting a hold of your bank account details. Pre-paid debit cards or credit cards provide an extra layer of protection as there is no direct withdrawal from your bank account.   

Be alert to traders who offer a bank transfer facility or those who request you to pay by card over the telephone or to come into the store (sometimes a pop-up) to pay by cash.   

When you are paying look out for an ‘s’ after ‘http’ at the beginning of the url and a padlock symbol in your browser’s task bar which shows the website is secure. If it isn’t there, be very wary of proceeding any further.  

Finally keep all records as it is important to have all of the details of your interactions with the trader in case an issue arises. 

  1. Check the items as soon as they arrive:

When buying for Christmas presents, it somehow always seems wrong to open the packages when they come – however when you’re buying online it’s very important that you do. 

With that being said, open the packages and check the items for any irregularities or issues as soon as they arrive.  

If you are buying children’s toys online, be sure to look for the CE mark on the product, in the instruction manual or on the packaging. The CE mark is essentially the manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with EU safety regulations and standards. If there is no visible CE mark, it may be an indication that the toys do not meet the required safety standards and should not be used.


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