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DILIGENT research and secure payments are among the top tips for online shoppers ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Almost seven in ten (69%) internet users purchased goods and/or services online in 2020, an increase of six percentage points on 2019, this trend has continued into 2021 with rates of online shopping now higher than ever.

Anne Marie O’Reilly of Ennis Citizens Information Centre highlighted that the same protections under consumer law exist when buying online just like when making purchases in store. She explained that when you buy products or services online you are entering into a contract called a distance contract. With this type of contract, you do not enter into the contract in person and you cannot check the products before you buy, as a result additional protections exist under EU law.

“When you buy online from a seller based in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU you have 14 calendar days to change your mind and cancel without having to give a reason. This is known as the ‘cooling-off period’. If you bought a product online your 14 day ‘cooling-off period’ starts when you get the product. The cooling-off period does not apply to certain purchases. Examples are leisure services such as hotel bookings, car rental or concert tickets or if the product was made especially for you,” Anne Marie stated.

She advised that carrying out research and secure payments are very important when it comes to online shopping. “If you are worried about whether you are buying from an authentic website, research the company to make sure it’s a legitimate business”.

Websites that only have a contact form with no other contact information are ones to be suspicious of, she said. Online reviews such as social media channels and Trustpilot can be helpful before making a purchase. Shoppers should also look for a closed security padlock symbol in their browser where the website address is located.

Customers should also be careful when it comes to fraudsters perpetrating to be couriers who seek payment for customs duties. “Always be sure to verify texts or emails are from who they say they are by phoning the business directly. Couriers give you the option of paying cash on delivery for duties owed and this may be safer. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please contact the Gardaí,” she concluded.

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