Consumers warned on website 'bargains'
CONSUMERS have been warned of the dangers of buying 'bargain' gifts online this Christmas as scammers step up efforts to fleece customers.
The European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Ireland urged customers to only buy from well-established sites after a spate of problems last year as fraudsters set up bogus sites which looked convincing but failed to deliver the promised goods.
It predicted a big rise in internet scams as shoppers desperate to save money are tempted to cut corners this Christmas. Many consumers are planning to make a third of all Christmas purchases online, according to a new survey by Deloitte. But the ECC warned that, while bargains were available, people needed to be cautious about where they spent their money.
One of the big problems last year involved sites selling must-have items such as Ugg boots or GHD hair straighteners, which were never delivered or turned out to be fakes, said ECC spokeswoman Caroline Curneen.
In some cases sites appeared to be based in the UK, but then the goods were shipped from China or elsewhere outside the EU, incurring extra customs duties.
There had also been electronics sites offering implausibly cheap prices which then discouraged people from purchasing by credit card as they added ludicrous extra charges of around 17pc to do so, instead encouraging people to pay by bank transfer or wiring money.
"This meant people were unable to avail of the chargeback facility on their credit cards which offers them protection if goods don't arrive," said Ms Curneen.
Some websites had also strung customers along for a lengthy period telling them goods were in the depot, or due for delivery, in order to exceed the maximum period allowed by credit card facilities to avail of the chargeback facility.
It was impossible to list sites where problems had arisen, because they were set up and shut down very rapidly, with new ones likely to come online between now and Christmas.
However, consumers could use an online tool on www.eccireland.ie to find out when and where a site was registered and other background information.