Shopping Online - What You Should Know

It is time to find the perfect gift for a family member, friend, a pet or yourself, but consider the following before you make a purchase online:

  • Who Is the Online Retailer? Practically anyone can set up shop on the Internet. Therefore, it is important to identify the online business' name, address, phone number and email address. A web site, NSI Who Is? http://www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois, allows the user to enter the web site domain name to find information such as the web site's administrative, technical and billing contact.
  • What is the Online Retailer's Privacy Policy and Legal Terms? Examine the web site's Privacy Policy and Legal Terms before making a purchase. Determine what the online business does with its customer information. Does it sell the information to other companies or does it keep its customer information confidential?
  • Examine the Sale Terms Before Making Purchases. Obtain information about the conditions of the purchase. Does the online business accept cancellations or allow refunds?
  • Determine the Web Site's Security. Today, security is a major issue for online businesses. The website may have a policy explaining its website security. Look for an unbroken key or padlock symbol in the bottom corner of the web browser. These symbols indicate data is being transferred securely. This is especially important when disclosing your credit card information on-line.
  • Use A Credit Card to Make Online Purchases. Credit cards offer customers important protections that are especially helpful when purchasing items online. For example, federal law states that a customer is only liable for the first $50 of unauthorized charges to his or her credit card account. In addition, using a credit card gives the customer the ability to dispute charges.
  • Maintain Records of Your Online Purchases. Website contact changes at a moment's notice. It is important to create a paper trail documenting the private policy, legal terms, sales terms, security policy and order information in effect at the time you make an on-line purchase. These printed documents serve as the best weapons in the event of a dispute.

In the event you run into trouble with your online purchase, there are resources that will assist with online business complaints. The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace. You can contact the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or on-line at www.ftc.gov.

The Internet has great shopping opportunities. Access to thousands of stores is right at your fingertips. As with any purchase, it is important to understand the pertinent information before you click in agreement to an online sale. A little investigative work can make your online shopping experience worthwhile.

Copyright 2004, Murphy Desmond S.C., All Rights Reserved

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