Purchasing goods online seems very simple and convenient – you can place your order with a few mouse clicks and it will be delivered to your door or a parcel machine soon after. However, you should avoid making hasty decisions when shopping on the internet.
Prior to ordering from a web store
- find out whether the web store is owned by a legal or private person: one way to do so is to check whose bank account the fee for the service is supposed to go (a private person or a company); check whether the company has been registered at the business register.
- keep in mind that if the seller is a private person, the product or service is not covered by statutory protection or consumer rights (right of filing a complaint, 14-day withdrawal right etc.) and you cannot turn to the Consumer Protection Board to solve disputes that arise in relation to buying from private persons;
- remember that the homepage of the web store should definitely include the following information: name, location and email address of the company, as well as a phone number where to call in case of problems; the terms and conditions of returning products, filing complaints and guarantee; how long the delivery will take and on which conditions unsuitable goods can be returned; who will pay for the costs of returning goods.
- note that a homepage of a foreign web store should state the laws of which country apply to purchases made from that webpage;
- note that if you have bought something from another European Union member online shop or a domestic online shop and the deal does not go according to plan and you have a complaint against the trader, you can use the ODR platform to resolve it;
- find additional information on the seller’s previous activities and behaviour with buyers, definitely check the Consumer Protection Board’s black list of e-vendors who do not adhere to laws or who do not fill their obligations to consumers;
- read the terms and conditions of ordering goods carefully, pay extra attention to how and when you should pay for the products and what the added costs might be (postal and service fees);
- ask for additional information from customer service if the information about products that is available on their website is not sufficiently comprehensive;
- remember that the general conditions of the web store must include information on payment conditions, right of withdrawal or lack thereof, options of returning goods, filing a complaint, guarantee against defects for the products etc.;
- note that if the vendor requires part of the product price to be paid in advance, it should also be stated in the terms and conditions of the contract;
- bear in mind that it is wise to use a credit card when paying for online purchases, as this way you will have better chances of getting your advanced payment back with the bank’s help, should the vendor turn out to be unfair;
- if possible, buy from vendors who implement the "cash on delivery" charge (C.O.D. charge), which means that the courier collects your payment for the goods when making the delivery or you pay at the post office once the order has arrived.
If you have bought something from another European Union member online shop and you have a complaint against the trader which you could not resolve between yourselves, you may use the ODR platform to resolve it. The ODR platform is a new digital environment which can be used to mediate disputes with e-traders to a competent extra-judiciary body who resolves consumer disputes. The ODR platform (Online Dispute Resolution) can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/odr.
Since the ODR platform is a technical solution where the consumer of trader may need user support from time to time, there is an option to ask for assistance. In Estonia, the European Consumer Centre of Estonia offers assistance and guidance on resolving cross-border disputes using the ODR website, if needed.