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Be a savvy shopper this Christmas

Date: 25/11/2008           Category: Community Safety

With Christmas just around the corner, Medway Trading Standards is keen to ensure shoppers know their rights during the festive season. Officers visited shopping centres across Medway during National Consumer Week, which took place from 17 to 21 November. The council’s consumer champions offered shoppers advice on how to avoid falling into debt, product safety, returns and refunds policies, how to safely shop online and the Medway Fair Trader scheme. Shoppers were also able to talk to officers about any trade issues they had. The team’s mobile unit visited the Dockside Outlet Centre; Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre and the Pentagon Shopping Centre. The following top 10 tips can be used to make sure you don’t fall victim to online scams. 1. Use your credit card - any transaction costing between £100 and £30,000 where payment is made by credit card allows you to hold the credit card company equally liable where you have received faulty goods, mis-described goods, or if the trader fails to deliver the goods. 2. Make sure you know as much about the company as possible. Reputable websites will usually display contact information on their website but the law requires a company to provide you with their address details no later than when you receive the goods. If you don’t know where you are buying from before you agree to purchase your goods, it can be very difficult to track down the trader if you want to return them. 3. Visa and MasterCard now offer a password protection option when you shop online (Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode) this offers you a greater level of protection by allowing you to avoid inputting your credit card details each time you make an online transaction. 4. Read through website terms and conditions. Most goods sold over the internet should be sold with a seven-day cancellation period if you wish to return the goods. 5. Make sure you know the total price before agreeing to buy. Look out for additional costs and hidden charges, such as postage, packing, VAT and charges for using credit cards. If a website does not make its prices clear, contact Consumer Direct. 6. Make sure you keep a printed record of your transaction as proof your order has been accepted. 7. Check your credit card statement to make sure you were charged the right amount and that there are no irregularities. 8. Be wary of spam emails sent to you after you have completed your transaction. Spam emails are unfortunately increasingly common for online shoppers. Make sure you know who you are dealing with before responding to any emails you have been sent. 8. Check the delivery times. Websites will usually tell you how long it takes to deliver an item, or if they don’t have your item in stock. Be aware that where your item is not in stock it may take some time to deliver. 10. Shop around. The first site that pops up on a search is not always the cheapest. You can use websites that show you price comparisons, pitting the internet traders’ prices against each other. Using these can ensure you get the best deal before you buy. For further information from Medway Trading Standards visit www.medway.gov.uk/tradingstandards or phone 01634 333333 to speak to a consumer advice officer.