Savvy Tips on Shopping On-line, Part 2

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Always read the privacy policy statement and terms and conditions. No matter how lengthy, these statements are important so that you know how they handle and secure your information and their payment policy. If you are uncomfortable with any of their terms, do not transact with the site. In the case of online marketplaces/social networking sites, it can be quite difficult to distinguish between a trustworthy merchant from an unscrupulous one (usually using fictitious names) selling non-existent or substandard products or services. There are sites that have, fortunately, taken steps to protect their buyers. Before accepting sellers, these sites first verify the identity of their prospective sellers. They also have a policy for dispute resolution between buyers and sellers.

• Trust your instincts. When in doubt, don’t. Do not proceed with your transaction when: You have any doubts on the merchant or on any step of the transaction process (e.g., payment, delivery). A deal/offer looks unbelievable, unreal or too good to be true – unless you have validated the deal/offer. Do not be deceived by huge discounts. You are hurried or pressured into completing the transaction and making the payment. This applies particularly to those merchants/sellers whose only payment option is by cash deposit to the merchants’ bank accounts or mobile wallets.

• Do your research: do comparison shopping and ask around. Visit several websites and do comparison shopping not only of the products and services, but the prices, customer service/after sales service, shipping/delivery, payment options, etc. Ask friends and family who have actual experiences with the merchant. Check online resources; read consumer reviews/reports/comments/blogs but do not base your decision solely on what you read; be perceptive.

• Read and understand the fine print. Check that the following information and policies are posted on the merchant’s website: About Us; Contact Us/Feedback; Privacy Policy; Shipping Policy; Customer Service/After Sales Service; Terms and Conditions; Dispute Resolution/Complaints Handling; FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)/Help; Ask yourself if they are to your liking/satisfaction and meet your needs/ requirements/expectations.

• Validate promotional tie-ups. Contact the establishment directly and verify the validity of the tie-up/offer with the website (e.g., group buying sites).

• Ensure that online payment is secure and reliable. Check that the shipping information page and payment information page are secure (i.e., the website address should show a closed padlock icon; https and not only http). Verify the existence of a reliable payment facility. For redirection of the payment page, the merchant’s website should clearly indicate that the payment page will be redirected to the payment gateway’s or payment provider’s website, which should also be secure. Monitor your credit card, debit card and checking accounts online on a regular basis. Check your statements (electronic/paper) to validate transactions.

• Proceed with your transaction if you feel confident, safe and secure. Online shopping need not be a struggle, it should be enjoyed – as long you feel confident, safe and secure. There is much to explore on the internet.
Always remember: caveat emptor – buyer beware! As a consumer, whether in the physical or online environments, you must remain vigilant, meticulous and discerning. This column will welcome additional tips or suggestions or you can email direct to the E-Commerce Office (ECO) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at eco@dti.gov.ph. Consumer complaints may be reported to the DTI Regional or Provincial Office nearest you. (Source: DTI Programs and activities)

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