CHRISTMAS shoppers have been warned to be aware of their rights ahead of today's expected online spending spree dubbed "cyber Monday".
Irish shoppers are today expected to inundate online stores such as Amazon and Ebay, as well as other less well-known sites, with orders for gifts to be delivered in time for December 25.
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) warned shoppers to be aware of their rights, with thousands of online orders for sought-after gifts like iPads, 'Downton Abbey' DVD box sets and Furbies – expected to be one of this year's top toys – and are set to be made today by Irish shoppers keen to avoid packed high-street stores.
Last year, it was estimated that consumers in Ireland splashed out as much as €257m on online gift-buying, with a spike in online orders noted on the last Monday in November.
With 29 shopping days left until the big day, Karen O'Leary, the NCA's director of public awareness, said that cyber Monday had become "one of the biggest online shopping days of the year ahead of the Christmas season".
Launching a new information campaign on shoppers' rights, she said that there had been a "phenomenal increase" in web-based shopping in recent years, and put the trend down to "convenience" and "because people have less time".
However, she warned consumers to be aware of their rights when shopping on the internet, pointing out that the NCA's helpline has received almost 1,350 calls relating to online shopping this year.
According to Ms O'Leary: "There are certain risks with online shopping, particularly regarding the non-delivery of goods or if the consumers wish to return an item purchased on the internet."
She highlighted consumer rights offered by many websites such as a cooling-off period, which allows the customer to return the gift within seven days from the date the item was purchased.
And she noted that if the reason for returning a product is just because the customer doesn't like the product, "it's up to them to pay for the goods to be returned".
She also urged online shoppers to research companies they don't recognise online to see if there are any negative references.
And Ms O'Leary advised: "We would urge consumers to check for expected delivery dates, shipping and handling fees".
"It is important that consumers know their rights and what solutions are available to them, in case something goes wrong," she added.
The NCA advised that its website nca.ie has information available to consumers on their rights when shopping and what action they can take to resolve any issues they may have.