Second-hand shopping online

CHOICE explores risks of shopping and swapping second-hand items online.
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  • Updated:14 Sep 2009

03.Purchase checklist

When buying second-hand items, you’re not covered by the same kind of consumer protection laws as when buying them brand new.

  • You may not always get to examine the goods before buying them.
  • The individual seller may not agree to a refund if the product is faulty, and this could be complicated if the items you bought require interstate postage or delivery.
  • There is also no such thing as a cooling-off period when buying second-hand items or swapping.

Buying second-hand online checklist

Take these steps to protect yourself when buying second-hand goods online:

  • Ask the seller about the condition and quality of the product. The photos posted online give you the complete picture. Sellers may put up stock or catalogue photos that may not reflect the true condition of the items.
  • If possible, arrange to examine the item before you commit to buying it.
  • Familiarise yourself with the website’s security guidelines. Each website will usually have an advisory section where tips for trading safely are listed as well as a dispute resolution policy.
  • Check the payment mode and if it is secure. PayPal, for example, is widely used because it allows you send payments securely online using a credit card, debit card or bank account without giving sellers your financial details. It also has a buyer protection service in case you don't receive your item or the item is significantly different from its description in the seller's listing.
  • Check if there is a refund policy and what it entails, such as the refund conditions and who bears the postage charges if you have to return it by post.

Swapping online checklist

When swapping second-hand items:

  • Check the product before accepting it. Just because you don’t have to fork out money for the product doesn’t mean you take it if it’s not in good condition.
  • Check for labels indicating the product is certified to the relevant standard.
  • Make sure the product works before accepting it.

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