As we juggle busy working and family lives, the internet has become the most convenient, and often the cheapest, way of shopping for many of us. However, when buying things online you need to be sure that your refund policy remains in place and that your purchases are protected.
The following tips apply to goods purchased, travel bookings made and the purchasing of items that may later need to be refunded.
Use a credit card
The best way to pay for goods online is with a credit card. Some say you should only use credit card payments for larger items, but I think it is important to use your card whenever you can. By paying with a credit card, you are instantly protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This great bit of legislation means you can claim a refund from the credit card company if your supplier goes bust or your goods do not arrive, or if they are faulty. The most important point of Section 75 is that the payment must be made directly through the credit card and not through a third party such as PayPal. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act does not apply if you pay through a third party. If you use a credit card, you can still pay the amount off in full, therefore not incurring huge interest rates.
If you do not have a credit card, consider applying for one, and look out for deals where the credit card company offers you cashback or some sort of reward.
For items under £100, you are able to use the Chargeback scheme when paying by debit or credit card. The Chargeback scheme is not written in law, but it is an industry-recognised scheme incorporating American Express, Mastercard and Visa. There is a time period in which to start this process and this is within 120 days of making the payment. It usually covers a company going bust or goods not arriving.
Whether you use Section 75 or the Chargeback scheme, it is always advisable to contact the supplier first before going to the credit card company for assistance.
Other ways to pay
When purchasing on online sites with multiple sellers – for example, eBay – you may prefer to use PayPal. PayPal has built-in buyers' protection, meaning you can claim a refund up to 180 days from when payment was made.
With the options of using a credit card, a debit card or PayPal available, I would highly recommend you do not use bank transfers to make payments. Even though paying by transfer guarantees the money arriving at its destination, it can be difficult to get your money back in the event of a dispute.
With Christmas ideas in the forefront of people's minds, buying gift vouchers may not be ideal in the present financial climate. There is a real risk of companies going bust and rendering their gift vouchers worthless.
When shopping online, please always beware of scammers. If the deal looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Please always seek professional advice. before taking any action. We are happy to answer questions in future issues: please send your questions via our website.