Get the most out of internet shopping and avoid problems by
doing some simple things to protect your money and your personal
Check site security and
Make sure a company's website is secure before you enter any
personal information and only transact through trusted
Check these things to see if the website is secure:
- Does the website address at the top of the page start with
https:// or just http://?
(The 's' in https:// tells you the website is secure)
- Does your web browser show a closed padlock similar to this?
(A padlock means the website is secure)
- Does the company have complete contact details, including a
(Companies with a street address and contact details are more
likely to be legitimate)
Use a secure computer and a secure network to protect your money
when shopping online. Public computers and public networks are not
Password protect your computer or your smartphone to prevent
other people using your devices to shop online with your money.
Video: To buy or not to buy?
To buy or not to buy video
You'll never know 100% which sites you can trust, but online
stores that are secure and value you as customer are usually a good
start. Check out these useful tips to help you decide whether to go
ahead and buy.
Transcript: To buy or not
Look for scams
Fake websites or fake products can be used to steal your money,
your bank details, or your identity. Try to avoid this by looking
for clues that tell you it might not be the real deal. For
- Does the site ask for more personal information than they
- Are their prices too good to be true?
- Can you find more information about the company or products
Your best protection against scammers is to find out more about
how scams work so you'll have a better chance of spotting one.
Visit the ACCC's SCAMwatch website.
Know your costs and rights as
Read all information carefully so you know the full cost of what
you are buying online.
Check the following details:
- Postage or delivery fees
- Packaging or handling charges
- Local currency costs, including currency conversion fees, if
the purchase is from overseas
- Import duty or taxes
Once you have all the costs it's easier to compare similar
things on other websites or the price of buying the item in a shop.
Remember, it may be harder to get a refund or exchange on an
Buy now, pay later
Some payment services allow you to delay payment or by pay by
instalments (often fortnightly). Repayments can progress over four
fortnightly repayments or can extend over a few months, even years.
For example, Afterpay or zipPay are now available when you shop
online or in store. These services are offered by separate
companies, not the retailer and, unlike lay-by, you'll get the
product straight away.
You may not need to apply for this service, it could simply be
an option at the checkout if the online retailer offers it. You may
have to provide your credit or banking details the first time you
use these services so your payments can be deducted, and you may
also need to pay the first instalment up-front.
These products are often advertised as 'interest-free' or '0%
interest', but the cost will add up if you can't make the
repayments on time. There's usually a late fee every time you miss,
or are late with a scheduled repayment, and some services also have
monthly account-keeping fees or payment processing fees. Always
check the terms and conditions before you sign up as they can be
different for each payment service.
Also, bear in mind that, unlike other credit providers, these
payment services may not be required to assess whether you can
afford the credit. And they may not belong to an external dispute
resolution scheme that could help you resolve a complaint if things go
Before you use this payment option, carefully check the type of
contract you are agreeing to, its terms and conditions, your
repayment obligations and your protections and rights if things go
wrong. You should also make sure the fortnightly payments are
affordable and in your budget. See how to do a budget for tips on
preparing and using a budget.
International transaction fees
Some credit cards charge an international transaction fee if you buy
products from a company that is based overseas (even if you pay in
Australian dollars), or is based in Australia but processes
payments in another country. This fee is generally calculated as a
percentage of the Australian dollar value of the transaction
(usually up to 3.5%).
Even though an online shopping website with a domain name that
ends in '.com.au' might appear to be an Australian business, they
or their bank might be located overseas. This means you could still
be charged an international transaction fee.
To check if you will be charged this fee, read the terms and
conditions on the company's website - or call or email them
You can also check the terms and conditions of your credit card
to find out if and when you will be charged international
transaction fees. Some cards don't charge these fees so you could
think about switching cards if you regularly shop online from
companies with overseas connections.
Westpac has refunded around $20 million to customers for not
clearly disclosing the types of credit card transactions that
attract foreign transaction fees. For more information, see ASIC's media release.
You can use comparison websites to check the fees and features
of credit cards, but they do have some limitations. See our article
on using comparison websites for
Different auction sites have different rules and the type of
auction may affect your legal rights as a buyer.
Check the terms and conditions of the auction website and find
- If the business running the auction site has any responsibility
for what you buy or whether it's just between you and the
- What fees and charges you will have to pay
- What to do if there is a dispute or you need to make a
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a great
list of online auction tips.
Keep a record of online purchases, including photos and
descriptions of items you buy. In particular:
- Make sure you have received an email confirmation of your
purchase before closing your browser
- Make sure you have a record of your receipt or other reference
- Check your settings for online website accounts to see how long
your transaction history is kept
- Check your bank account, credit card or other account to make
sure you have been charged correctly
Credit card chargeback
Buying with a credit card rather than a debit card may give you
extra protection if you don't receive what you bought. You can ask
your bank for a chargeback.
A chargeback is a return of funds from a retailer, or service
provider, to your bank account or credit card, often initiated by
your bank. When the bank has investigated, it may reverse the
transaction - meaning you get the money back. However, it depends
on the circumstances. Check with your bank.
If you want to ask for a chargeback, don't delay - there may be
a time limit on getting your money back.
If your credit card is linked to your PayPal account, you may be
entitled to a chargeback for PayPal purchases. However, this option
is only available if you are not satisfied with the outcome of
PayPal's dispute resolution process.
Sometimes, even when you're careful, things do go wrong.
Find out what your rights are from the ACCC's online shopping webpages
or your local consumer protection or fair trading organisation.
If you don't receive what you paid for, in good condition, there
are steps you can take:
- Check the seller's website for details on how to contact them
or make a complaint
- Contact your bank or payment service provider about protections
such as chargebacks that may apply
- Contact the ACCC or your consumer protection or fair trading
organisation in your state to see if they can help you sort things
out with the seller
Shopping online can be a convenient way to buy
the goods and services you want, but you do need to be careful and
take a few extra precautions so you're not putting your money at
Last updated: 30 Oct 2017