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Online shopping - know your rights before you buy

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Media Release

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A record number of Australian consumers are expected to use the internet to do their Christmas shopping this festive season, but many shoppers are unsure of their rights.

Slater and Gordon senior lawyer Jessica Latimer said Australia does not have any specific laws covering internet shopping, but consumers are still protected under existing consumer laws.

“Australia’s consumer laws apply whether a purchase is made in a big department store, a small retail shop or over the internet,” Ms Latimer said.

Under existing consumer laws, online customers have the right to a repair, replacement or refund when making a purchase using their smartphone or tablet just as they would when shopping in a traditional store

Australian vendors are obliged to repair or replace a product that is defective or does not live up to expectations. But changing your mind about a purchase doesn’t automatically entitle you to a refund.

Ms Latimer said online shoppers who use a credit card can sometimes get their money back from a bank if a purchased item is not delivered.

“They should report the transaction as a disputed transaction to their bank or credit card company for further action.”

Ms Latimer advised online shoppers to take the time to investigate a site’s refund and returns policy and be aware that returning a product usually mean paying for the postage.

However, problems can arise when buying from an overseas-based online store.

“Australia’s consumer laws apply to overseas traders who do business in Australia but it is difficult to apply those laws in Australia. A complaint can be lodged with econsumer.gov, an international agency that gathers and shares cross-border e-commerce complaints,” Ms Latimer said.

Buyers who purchase products through online auctions like eBay can seek redress through the complaints services provided on the site.

Consumer regulators, here and overseas, have recently shut down a number of bogus internet shopping sites and have taken action against those found to have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.

Ms Latimer said shoppers should always buy from reputable online stores that offer secure payment facilities and a clear refund and returns policy.

“If the site looks suspicious and the deal looks too good to be true then it’s best to avoid it,” she said.