Get the most out of internet shopping and avoid problems by
doing some simple things to protect your money and your personal
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
Check site security and
Don't use public wi‑fi networks when online shopping as they are
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
(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
Look for scams
If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fake websites or fake products can be used to steal your
money, your card, your bank details, or your identity. Try to
avoid this by looking for clues that tell you it might not be
the real deal:
- Does the site ask for more personal information than they
- Are their prices too good to be true?
- Can you find more information about them somewhere else?
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 overseas purchase.
Some websites now have an option that lets you delay payment
until after the goods have been received and you are happy with
them. Find out more about interest-free online shopping.
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 seller
- What fees and charges you will have to pay
- What to do if there is a dispute or you need to
make a complaint
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
- 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 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.
If you want to ask for a chargeback, don't delay - there may be
a time limit on getting your money back.
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: 12 Sep 2016