Online shopping abroad

Online shopping abroad is tempting but not without risk.

Update : Nov 2015

Ten Golden Rules for shopping online abroad

To make an online purchase in another member state is interesting. Merchandise sometimes is less expensive and you can have more choice without having to move.

Nonetheless, electronic commerce outside of national frontiers is not without risks and in order to avoid problems, you should respect certain rules.


1. You should compare

It is important to choose your product well by comparing the prices across Internet sites and also with the traditional channels of distribution. Online purchases are not always less expensive! Don’t forget to take into account delivery and banking fees.

Beware: If you buy from outside the European Union, think about importation VAT and custom duties! Even if you are generally not confronted with those problems when buying within the European Union, please note that there are particular rules for special products like tobacco, alcohol and coffee. For details, please contact the customs administration of your home country.


2. Think about delivery delays

Do you need the product by a specific date? Think about delivery delays and buy the product with enough time, especially if you are buying it in a foreign internet site: an international payment transfer can take some days and the postal delays for an international shipment take longer.


3. Pick your seller with caution!

In order to reduce risks:

  • Verify that the site shows the name of the company, its administrator, and complete address
  • Avoid addresses with simple postal boxes and/or surtaxed telephone numbers. If there is a listed telephone number, don’t hesitate to call! Ask for additional information about the product and the delivery conditions. Their responses will give you an impression of the seriousness of the seller.
  • Verify that the sites mention: the general terms and conditions and the obligatory consumer protection rules; check that they have quality label or trusting brands. Inform yourself about the rules of attribution, guarantees and proposed services.
  • Don’t hesitate to look in other online sites and forums if other buyers have left comments or remarks about the seller.


4. Inform yourself about the payment methods

Generally, foreign online sites do not accept checks.

In addition:

  • they will ask you to pay in advance and
  • to pay via bank transfer or credit card

You should limit the banking fees by verifying that the seller told you his international banking details (IBAN, BIC and SWIFT) because only with these details the transfer will cost you the same price as a national payment.

Use your credit card only in the secured online sites (ex. http s://www. ….) that permit encrypted messages and don’t ever send your password.

You saw a fraudulent use? Contact your bank immediately!


5. Before completing your purchase, verify the general terms and conditions and your guarantees!

Verify your products in your basket, their prices, the delivery fees, the general terms and conditions of sale, and the guarantees given by the seller. Does he offer a commercial guarantee in addition to the legal guarantee?

Always print or save the contract and the purchase conditions.


6. Verify how your personal information will be used

  • Is it going to be given to third parties?
  • Is it going to be used to subscribe you to other offers?


7. You should receive a purchase confirmation

Above all, keep it or print it!


8. Your withdrawal rights

If you are not satisfied with your product, resend it at least within the seven days period of receiving it (minimum delay settled by a European directive, in some countries, the delay can be 14 days).

Attention! Some products or services do not adhere to this revocation delay: CDs or DVDs whose packaging was opened, magazines or journals, travel services, etc.


9. Verify the condition of the product once it is delivered

Point out any damage to the transporter.

If the product is damaged or does not correspond to what you asked for, file a complaint to the transporter and the seller.

Is it impossible to find a friendly solution? Send a letter demanding a reimbursement, reparations or delivery of a new merchandise. It is preferable to fix a reasonable delay with your seller.


10. If there is any problem, use the services of the European Consumers Centres

Always keep a copy of your mail communication with the seller. If there is a problem, send your complaint to your ECC that will try to find a solution.

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