Shopping online buying guide

With a few precautions, shopping on the internet can be a safe and enjoyable experience.
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  • Updated:10 Jan 2007

02.Can you trust the retailer?

Safe online shopping is all about doing your homework. If you’ve never shopped online, start with recommendations from family and friends, and always try to find out as much as possible about the company before you hand over your credit card details.

If something goes wrong with your purchase, the more information you have, the better off you’ll be. Look for the business’ street address, phone number and ABN (Australian Business Number) if it’s a local site. This tells you it’s a bona fide business.

If you’re unsure about a company’s track record, do some research online.

  • Search for complaints by typing the company’s name, plus ‘complaint’ or ‘problem’ into Google's forums.
  • Check ASIC’s (Australian Securities & Investments Commission) website to confirm whether or not the company exists and if its directors and owners have been banned from running a company.
  • Or, if the website is a registered business, it should be listed with the department of consumer affairs or fair trading in your state or territory.

What about buying abroad?

Consumer law changes from country to country and if you’re shopping using a website not based in Australia, there are other considerations in addition to the usual precautions.

  • If in doubt about your rights, be doubly careful when checking your ‘contract of sale’ — the site’s general policies and terms and conditions — and what consumer protection measures are available.
  • It can be difficult to get assistance when things go wrong with an international purchase. If you have trouble resolving a complaint, contact the relevant consumer affairs organisation in the country where the company is located.
  • Links to consumer organisations can found at
  • You can use websites such as the National Information Fraud Centre in the US and in the UK to check the credibility of international businesses.

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