Shopping online not without problems for Australians

More than a third of online purchases are damaged, lost or spoiled by a number of other issues.

A survey of more than 1100 people by the NSW Department of Fair Trading has found 39% of Australians face problems when buying goods and services online.

Accounting for an estimated half of these problems are goods being delivered late, damaged or not arriving altogether.

These are on on top of less common problems faced by online shoppers, including when a product is faulty, turns out to be different to what was advertised or ends up costing more due to unexpected fees and charges.

The survey results illustrate the need for more transparency when it comes to buying from online retailers, says Matt Kean, the minister for innovation and better regulation.

"It's really important to remember you have the same rights buying online from an Australian supplier as you do when you walk into a shop," he says.

Buying from overseas retailers presented more troubles for Australians shoppers. People identified a lack of clarity due to the conversion of currency and the cost of shipping. Issues with communication were recognised and there were cases where credit cards were used fraudulently.

NSW Fair Trading offered several tips to help people shop safely online; an activity Australians spend more than $11 billion on each year.

Shoppers should check a retailer's refund and dispute resolutions policies before clicking the 'buy now' button.

Using a trusted third-party to process the payment can help, such as PayPal, as they can process a chargeback or a refund when notified of problems with a purchase.

As can running a search of the supplier's name online to find reviews or warnings about the business.

Fair Trading's own complaints register – a portal that publishes the monthly complaints lodged against businesses – could help identify sites with sketchy histories.

Viewing the companies named-and-shamed for the most recent month available would highlight Viagogo as questionable, a ticket reseller with a documented history of selling inflated – and at times, non-existent – tickets to entertainment events.

Other online retailers to make the dubious list include Grays Online, Webjet Marketing and Shakuhachi.