Monday 23 January 2017

How to avoid festive follies when shopping online this Christmas

Published 25/11/2011 | 06:00

Chances are you'll be spending less this Christmas. Good for us, it's the smart thing to do with less money in our pockets.

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But hang on -- although we won't be splashing out as much cash as we didn in previous years, we will still spend more than any other Europeans!

That's according to Deloitte's annual consumer survey of Christmas spending. And not only are we still set to be the biggest spenders but, according to the Irish League of Credit Unions, some of us will be in debt for seven months after Christmas as a result.

To try and spend less, you could shop online. Use cashback sites, deal-of-the-day sites and coupons. Above all, make sure you shop safe online. Here's how:

How do I know the web trader is decent?

The best way to feel confident is to know exactly with whom you're doing business. If you don't know the site or it's not one that has been recommended to you, do a web search of the name. If there is a negative chat out there you'll find it.

Also check for secure payment methods; the 'http' should become 'https' in a secure payment environment, and look for the padlock symbol at the bottom right of the screen.

What if the trader doesn't give contact details?

The first thing you should do is check for a postal address, phone number and email contact details. If they're not there, don't give them your custom. Plus, under European law, providing full contact details is required.

How do I know what delivery costs will be?

Including delivery costs and details is another legal requirement for EU web traders. You should be told in advance what the delivery charges will be so you know what the total cost is.

If I'm buying from a UK website will I pay their lower VAT rate?

No. Once the sales of a site selling to Ireland go above the VAT threshold (€35,000), they will be registered for VAT in Ireland and you pay our VAT rate of (currently) 21% if applicable. This should be included in the price displayed for Irish customers.

What about buying from the US?

Again you can expect to pay the Irish VAT rate. And if buying from a non-European site, you'll have to add in customs duty as well. Customs duty at different rates (2.7pc or 3.7pc for toys, 12pc for clothes, 17pc for shoes, and so on) has to be added to the purchase price plus delivery charge. Then you add VAT to the new total. It all adds up so make sure you are certain that the total price is the best value for the item your buying. But you can buy up to a value of €150 without paying custom duty and €22 without incurring VAT.

What if my online purchase isn't delivered in time for Christmas?

Buy as soon as possible and check for final order dates for Christmas delivery. If the worst happens and the product arrives late, just send it back and get a refund.

Really! I can just send the product back?

Yes, for two reasons. Firstly under EU law the delivery must be executed with 30 days unless otherwise agreed. And if a delivery date is promised but doesn't happen, the contract is broken and you can pull out. Secondly, don't forget your 'cooling-off' period.

What's the 'cooling-off' period?

This is a period of seven days in which you can change your mind for whatever reason and, under EU law, tell the web trader you are sending the product back for a refund.

Use this right to withdraw if you don't like the product you have purchased. If buying from outside the EU check their terms and conditions regarding returns.

Irish Independent

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