There are several things you can do to reduce the risk when you shop with any online business.
Before clicking 'I agree' or handing over your credit card details, here are some important questions you should ask yourself. If you cannot answer these questions with confidence, you might be better to choose a different place to shop.
1. Who am I dealing with?
Before you buy anything online, satisfy yourself that the trader you are dealing with is legitimate. Reputable traders generally provide contact details, such as a physical address (including the country where it based) phone and fax numbers. This information will also help you contact the business if something goes wrong.
In the case of a Qatari business, also look for the Company Registration Number (CRN). You can also check a local business' details by contacting them directly or visiting any retail outlet operated by the business.
In the case of traders who are based outside Qatar:
- Check the trader's website for the terms and conditions of sale
- Check the reputation of the trader by reading any comments from previous customers on the website or searching the name of the trader online
- Check whether there are any additional policies in relation to returns, refunds or resolving disputes.
2. Do I know what I am buying?
Satisfy yourself that the goods or services described or pictured on the website are exactly what you want, or you might end up with something different! Are the goods and services new or second hand? Check the technical compatibility: Will it work with 220Vac or will you need an adaptor or transformer? Will it work in Region Code 2? If you have updated software, will you be able to go back to a previous version? Is it technically fit for your intended purpose?
If there is any doubt, confirm the details with the business before you pay. This especially applies to applications you can download to your mobile phone or other device that is internet enabled. Check that you can remove these applications without affecting the service or without having to pay extra.
A Word about Internet Auctions:
An internet or online auction is an electronic 'marketplace' where sellers and buyers come to trade their goods. Ensure you understand the way the auction works. Read the terms and conditions, especially any fine print before you participate. If you need to create an account or a login to begin bidding, choose a secure password to protect your personal details. Learn as much as you can about the seller before you buy.
If the auction site uses a feedback rating system, check comments left by other buyers and sellers. A seller with a large number of positive comments is more likely to be trustworthy. Don't get caught with unexpected fees and charges. Only use payment options recommended by the auction site. Some electronic money transfer services cannot be traced, which makes them more popular with scammers.
3. What does the 'fine print' say?
You have a responsibility to read the terms and conditions of your sale agreement. You may need to click on a link which will take you to a separate page, but you should be able to find the terms and conditions easily.
The terms and conditions of your sale agreement should be clear. They should include information such as:
- Whether your purchase is covered by warranties or guarantees;
- Whether the business has a cancelation and return policy or to provide refunds;
- What options you have if the product you choose is not available.
In online transactions, you usually 'sign' the contract by clicking on an 'I agree' or 'I accept' button.
Print out any forms you have filled in online, and keep copies of any email correspondence as a record of the offer you have accepted. If there is a problem, you will need to prove the terms of your contract with the business.
4. Are there any extra fees or charges?
Make sure you know the total cost of your purchase.
- Does the total price include delivery, insurance and handling costs? Are there any ongoing fees? Do not agree to any open-ended charges against your credit card;
- Are there any taxes or duties? What currency is being used for the transaction? Even a local company might list prices in US dollars.
5. Is my order correct?
Once you know the final cost, confirm your order is correct before you pay.
Reputable businesses give you a clear summary of your order before you 'check out'- making it easy for you to change your order before you pay.
6. Is my transaction secure?
You should do what you can to satisfy yourself that any online payment you make is secure. Companies that offer secure payment will tell you so before you start to provide your credit card details.
If you are on a secure webpage, a 'key' or 'lock' icon will appear somewhere on your browser window, or the web address will begin with https//: (instead of just http//:).
Unfortunately scammers may be able to reproduce symbols to give you the impression that a fake website is secure. If you have doubts, it is safer not to proceed. To avoid being 'scammed' online please read our General Rules below.
7. When will my goods arrive?
Ask for an estimated delivery date. If your item does not arrive around that time, contact the seller and confirm if it has been processed and sent.
8. What happens if I am not satisfied with my purchase?
If there is a problem with your purchase your options will depend on several factors, such as:
- Whether the seller is based in Qatar or overseas—purchases from Qatari businesses are covered by Qatari laws that do not generally apply to overseas transactions;
- Whether a fault is covered under a warranty;
- Whether the seller has a return or exchange policy;
- Whether you can seek a refund or replacement.
Many businesses have their own customer service policies which can go above and beyond their legal obligations. You should be able to find details of these on their website, or contact the business.
9. How will my personal information be treated?
The privacy of your personal information is an important consideration when shopping online.
If you understand how a business will use your details, it could reduce your chances of ending up on 'spam' mailing lists, or other unwanted breaches of your privacy.
The following steps are a guide to how you can protect yourself when shopping online:
- Only conduct business with sites that have detailed privacy policies explaining what information the business keeps and how it is used;
- Install software that protects your private information, such as virus and anti-spyware programs, 'cookie' removers, and firewalls;
- Do not agree to further contact with the business when filling out forms online, unless you want to receive more marketing material;
- Only give as much information as you are comfortable with;
- Use an anonymous web-based email account when using the internet, to prevent spammers getting your personal details.
10. Have you taken steps to protect yourself from online scams?
Unfortunately, the internet is not free from scams and scammers. Some scams are especially designed to take advantage of the way the internet works.
Most scams need you to do something before they can work. You may be asked to send money to someone based on a promise that turns out to be false. You may be asked to give your personal details to people who turn out to be scammers. Some scams rely on you agreeing to deals without getting advice first, or buying a product without checking it out properly.
The General Rules are:
- If it looks too good to be true—it probably is;
- Use your common sense: the offer may be a scam;
- ALWAYS get independent advice if an offer involves significant money, time or commitment;
- Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: the only people who make money on them are the scammers;
- Do not agree to offers or deals straight away: tell the person you are still undecided or that you want to get some independent advice before making a decision;
- NEVER send money, or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust;
- Check your bank account and credit card statements when you get them. If you see a transaction you cannot explain, report it to your bank;
- Keep your credit card and ATM cards safe. Do not share your personal identity number (PIN) with anyone. Do not keep any written copy of your PIN with the card.