Online shopping is a common way to make purchases and the percentage of purchases made online is steadily growing. Online shopping offers consumers a huge selection of products combined with the convenience of not having to leave the house. There are however potential drawbacks to purchasing online.
Consumers who are purchasing goods online or by phone or mail can be at a disadvantage because they cannot see what they are buying. As well, the actual identity of the seller may not be as clear as it is when a deal is made in person.
Saskatchewan law requires a supplier who is selling over the internet or through a remote contract (any sale that is not in-person) to provide the purchaser with certain information before any agreement is entered into. A supplier is anyone who in the course of their business provides goods or services to consumers. These laws apply to purchases made by Saskatchewan residents and purchases from Saskatchewan companies selling online. They apply to purchases of goods for personal, family or household use that cost $50 or more.
Before any agreement is entered into the purchaser must be given...
- contact information for the seller including their name, telephone and address and other contact information such as fax number and email address, if the seller uses these means to conduct business
- a fair and accurate description of the goods and/or services they are going to purchase
- an itemized list of the cost of goods and/or services, including things like taxes, shipping charges, customs and brokerage fees, if applicable
- the total amount that would be payable under the agreement and if payment is to be made in something other than Canadian currency
The purchaser must also be given information about...
- when and how the goods and/or services will be supplied
- when and how payments must be made
- the seller's cancellation, return and exchange policies
- any other restrictions, limitations or conditions
When shopping around for a good deal online, a consumer could be tempted by bargain-basement prices on some shopping websites but if it's a site you have never heard of you need to check it out before entering your credit card information. Every year there are consumers who went for that bargain on an unknown site and never received the goods they paid for.
Finally, before any internet or remote contract is entered into the seller must give the purchaser an express opportunity to correct any errors and to accept or decline the contract. If you accept the contract the seller must provide you with a copy of the contract, by mail or email, within 15 days of when you agreed to the purchase.
Being provided with this information can help you make the right choice before you buy but, even with all this information, there are still some precautions that can prevent future problems.
Carefully examine the facts about what you are buying. Beware of extravagant claims for products. Online buying makes it difficult to verify a seller's promises. Read all of the fine print and relevant links to make sure you find any "catches" or hidden conditions that may be placed on your purchase.
Use Trustworthy Websites
- Use well known 'big name" sites.
- Look at the domain name for spelling and grammatical errors - fraudulent websites are often designed to look like the legitimate site of another company.
- See if the company is part of an industry regulating group such as the Better Business Bureau.
Protect your Device
- Always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a secure firewall.
- Clear your browser cache after visiting a site to delete any data held in the cache making it unavailable to other sites and applications.
Protect your Personal Information
- Don't give out any more information than what is truly necessary to complete your purchase; there's usually no legitimate reason for a store to need your Social Insurance Number or mother's maiden name if you're simply trying to make a purchase.
- If you're concerned about buying from a particular website, call the customer service department to ask how you can better protect your personal information online with their website.
- Check if the site has an "opt-out" policy that allows you to prevent further solicitation and the sharing of your personal information with third parties.
- Do not give your password to anyone. Hackers and scammers often try to entice you to give your password through a variety of tricks. Be careful. Use different passwords at different Websites and change your passwords every now and then.
- Beware of phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send emails or texts or make phone calls claiming problems with an order or an account to lure you into revealing financial information. Sometimes the email address will alert you to the fact that it is not the company contacting you. If you receive an email, text or phone call like this do not respond to it. Instead phone the contact number on the site where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.
Confirm your Online Purchase is Secure
- Look for the "lock" symbol before paying.
- Save a copy of the final confirmation page and any confirmation or tracking emails.
- Check your credit card statements often. Check for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.