November 26, 2001
Legislator Gonsalves Offers Consumer Tips About On-Line Shopping
As more consumers turn to the internet to shop, County Legislator Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) is providing the following list of consumer tips about on-line shopping provided by the Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs to assist consumers to make informed decisions prior to buying this Holiday season.
BEWARE OF EXAGGERATED CLAIMS
These may be sales pitches in disguise. Just because a statement appears on your computer screen, doesn't make it legitimate. Treat all comments and claims with a dose of skepticism.
KNOW YOUR PRODUCTS AND PRICES
Avoid impulse buying. This is especially important when dealing with on-line auctions. Are you really getting the best deal?
LOOK FOR SPECIFIC DETAILS
Shopping via the internet is a lot like mail order buying. You don't see the actual merchandise. Do the same as you would with catalogs - look for a detailed description.
FIND OUT ABOUT DELIVERY DATE, REFUND POLICY AND WARRANTY
If no delivery date is specified, federal law says you should get the item within 30 days. If an appliance or electronic product is involved, check who backs the merchandise as well as the terms of the warranty.
CHECK SHIPPING AND HANDLING COSTS
Sometimes Web-merchants don't let you know these charges until late in the check-out process. They're hoping that you have invested a lot of time in selecting the merchandise and won't want to cancel.
If you don't see such a policy listed, think twice before divulging personal information. MAKE SURE YOU NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.
WHEN YOU ARE READY TO BUY, MAKE SURE YOU ARE ON A SECURE SYSTEM
When switching from browsing to shopping, you should see an indication on the screen that you are being switched to a secure system. It might be a picture of a closed lock or a broken key.
VERIFY THAT A COMPANY IS LEGITIMATE
Check out the company's complaint record with the Office of Consumer Affairs. It is also a good sign if the site has a seal indicating that a merchant is a member of a professional group that requires adherence to ethical standards.
NEVER SEND MONEY TO A P.O. BOX
You may not be able to locate the seller if you don't get the merchandise or if there is a problem with the merchandise. Always get an address and phone number.
BE WARY IF THE SELLER IS AN INDIVIDUAL
Keep in mind, that most consumer protection laws exempt private sales. If you have a problem with such a sale you may not be able to get it resolved.
CONSIDER AN ESCROW AGENT IF YOU BUY FROM AN ON-LINE AUCTION
Escrow agents are a third party, who will pay the seller if you are satisfied. Since most escrow agents charge a fee, you may want to use this only for larger purchases.