Buying from an online platform

Could not find your dream watch via a normal website? Looking for a second hand mega deal? Or a hotel or flight at the best possible price? In such cases you will frequently be directed to an online platform. 

A single website which gives you access to hundreds or even thousands of products and services offered by sellers across the globe. Using search engines you can personalise searches and easily compare prices. To put it a nutshell, find a tailor made offer. 

However, buying from such a platform is not without risk. Always ask yourself the following questions:

What is the role of the platform?

Usually the company operating the online platform does not sell products or services as such. It gives third parties (professional or private sellers) the opportunity to offer their products and/or services for sale via its online platform, enabling them to use the logistics of the platform (layout, order procedure, payment system etc.) to enter into contracts with consumers.

Purchases made via the platform are non-binding for the platform operator, which means that you have no redress with them in the event of problems with the order. Nevertheless, some platforms will act as an intermediary between the seller and the consumer in the event of a dispute.

Who is the seller?

Before buying from an online platform you should check who the vendor of the offer is. The platform is obliged to provide you with contact data of relevant sellers for any products or services on offer. 

Why? Because the seller is solely responsible in the event of a problem with your purchase. 

It will also enable you to establish whether the seller is a trader or private seller, and whether they are based inside or outside the EU. Is the seller a private individual? In that case you are not protected by consumer laws such as the right of withdrawal and legal guarantee. Is the professional seller based outside the EU? In such cases it will be difficult to assert your rights if problems occur.

How do you prevent fraud?

Platforms are not obliged to check a seller's true identity. Fraudsters use this loophole to present misleading or even fictitious offers. 

Be vigilant, because platforms usually stipulate in their terms and conditions of use that they are not liable for the content of offers, photographs and other information posted therein by sellers. This means that you have no redress with the platform if you are the victim of a fraudulent offer. 

In order to minimise fraud some online platforms provide a central payment system on their website. Once the product or service has been supplied the platform transmits the money to the seller. If problems occur you can notify the platform to stop the money from being transmitted until the dispute is resolved. 

Always pay via the platform and never comply with requests from sellers to complete the sale or payment outside the platform, e.g. via e-mail. 

Be vigilant about the type of payment method used. If possible use a credit card, which will give you the option to contest the payment.