Online shopping

Know your online shopping rights

Online shopping is a growing trend with Australians spending more than $11 billion every year on online retail. Fair Trading commissioned market research into the attitudes of Australian consumers and businesses towards online shopping and their knowledge of security precautions. The survey was available from 15 March until 30 April 2017. A total of 1,139 survey responses were received.

Some of the key findings were:

  • Almost 40 percent of people who have bought goods or services online experienced problems with their purchase.
  • Of those who reported having problems, almost half (47.49 percent) of the issues related to the delivery of goods which were damaged, late or never arrived.
  • Nearly half of all respondents (46.34 percent) reported problems buying goods online from an overseas supplier.
  • One in five (20.41 percent) survey respondents did not know they have the same rights when buying goods and services online from an Australian supplier as when buying in-store.

View the research on online shopping.

Buying from an overseas website

When you buy goods or services online from a business based in Australia you are protected by the same Australian Consumer Law that applies when you make a purchase at a physical store.

If you buy online from an overseas business, Australian Consumer Law might not apply or may only offer you limited protection. This could make it difficult for you to benefit from a warranty or to get a refund, replacement or repair if the goods you receive are defective. Before purchasing from overseas you should make you can get any repairs done in Australia.

Buying from a private seller

Australian Consumer Law does not apply when you buy from a private seller, such as buying a used car privately from a person or buying an item from a private seller on an online auction site. Whether you buy from a private seller or from a business, you are still guaranteed the title on the goods, unless told otherwise before the sale. If it’s not possible to resolve a dispute with a private seller, you might need independent legal advice.

Who is responsible for undelivered goods or damage in transit?

Read the delivery terms and conditions before you buy from an online seller. That information usually explains how issues are handled and who is responsible if goods are not delivered or get damaged in transit. If you’re not sure whether insurance is included in the cost of the goods or the shipping charges, email the seller about this before buying the goods.

While completing a sale, you might be given a choice of delivery options and even asked if you want to insure your goods at extra cost. Contact the seller immediately if your goods have not arrived within the stated time or they are damaged.

Delivery time

Before buying online, make sure you know the expected delivery time. You might need to refer to the terms and conditions first and then if you’re still unsure, email the seller and ask.

If you’re buying from daily deals site, make sure you know the validity period of vouchers and the refunds policies if for instance; the supplier is unable to provide the service within this time, stocks run out or the supplier goes out of business before the goods or services are supplied. Go to the group buying and daily deals page on our website for more information.

Refunds and returns

Make sure you read the seller’s refund and return policies. You might be offered a more generous policy than what is required under Australian Consumer Law. Go to the repairs, refunds and replacements page on our website for more information.

Resolving online shopping disputes

If you have a problem with the goods or services you bought online, go to the site and communicate promptly with the seller to resolve the issue. If this fails, contact your card provider or online payment service eg. PayPal promptly and enquire about a chargeback or refund. If a credit card provider or online payment service doesn’t resolve the problem, and the transaction was in Australia, you can contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority on 1300 565 562.

Australian traders

If you can’t resolve the issue with the business, contact Fair Trading for help. If Fair Trading intervention is not successful, you can lodge an application with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Alternately, you can get independent legal advice.

Overseas traders

If you can’t resolve the issue with the business, contact the consumer protection body in that country and ask for help. You can also lodge a complaint through eConsumer.

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