Don't get caught out shopping online for Christmas
Published 21/11/2015 | 02:30
Online shopping is to reach record levels this Christmas.
A recent survey by eBay claimed that half of people in Ireland will make online purchases this Christmas, spending an average of €512 per person.
One-in-five people will use their smartphone to make a purchase.
Buying online takes a lot of the hassle out of shopping. There is no need to queue to pay, you won't spend ages finding parking or waiting for a bus, and you will be spared crowds.
But shopping on the web can lead to an increase in scams.
At this time of the year fraudsters try to exploit the hassled consumer with generous offers that often turn out to be too good to be true.
Don't leave it too late
Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year, which may lull some into a false sense that they have more time than they think for an online delivery to arrive to make it to their home.
Research conducted last year by the State watchdog, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, found that almost a third of online shoppers experience delays. So make sure you order with plenty of time to spare.
Know your rights
Before you complete an online purchase, the seller must give you specific information including: the price, any taxes, any delivery costs; details of what to do if you change your mind and a copy of the form for returning goods.
When shopping online you have the same rights as you do when buying on the high street as long as you buy from a site in the EU.
And in some cases your rights are even stronger.
Cooling off periods
EU online shoppers enjoy a cooling-off period which gives you the freedom to change your mind after you have made a purchase. These rules don't just apply to online shopping but also cover other distance purchases, such as those placed by phone or mail order.
Buying online means you have a 14-day cooling-off period. During this time you can simply change your mind.
The idea here is to protect consumers buying at a distance who can't view and feel what they are buying.
If the goods are faulty, you are entitled to an exchange or a full refund.
In the case of refunds, you are entitled to it within 14 days.
If you buy from a website that is based outside the EU (European Union) you will be hit with VAT and customs duty charges. Revenue says almost 90,000 people were hit with taxes and duties last year when they had goods delivered to their doors.
The taxation body raised €2.1m in customs duties and value added tax (VAT) from parcels coming into Ireland last year. Goods imported from outside the European Union are subject to VAT if the value is more than €22.
A spokeswoman for Revenue said: "Online shopping is increasing in popularity and, in the run-up to Christmas Revenue staff in postal depots across the country are noticing an increase in traffic as a result of shoppers looking for bargains online."
Where goods are valued are more than €150 then customs duty may also be payable, depending on the type of goods and the country of origin.
Check the website
If you buy from a website based in the EU, you have the protections of EU consumer legislation.
But double check and don't be fooled into thinking the site is based in the EU just because it has .ie or .co.uk at the end.
However, if the goods are faulty or you change your mind, you may be liable for the cost of returning them.