Problems? Prevention is better than cure. Particularly when shopping online! The internet is a relatively anonymous platform, which plays into the hands of fraudsters. It is advisable, therefore, to check whether a webshop you want to buy from is secure. The ECC ‘WebshopCheck’ will help you with this.
Do the WebshopCheck
Feeling secure when browsing the internet? Yes, it is possible! Use ECC Belgium’s ‘WebshopCheck’ and purchase securely online.
Check your first impressions
Similar to being wary about entering a suspect looking shop, your initial impressions will also act as a significant guide online. But sometimes your instincts could do with a bit of help when visiting webshops! The following checks are definitely useful. If the webshop fails to meet the requirements of these checks you should visit another webshop.
What does the web address or URL tell you?
- Avoid http and opt for the more secure https (also recognisable by the lock to the left of the URL)!
- Is the name of the web address a rather strange match with what the webshop is selling (e.g. www.sailingyachts.be sells shoes)? Avoid!
What is your first impression of the website?
- Is the quality of the photographs dodgy?
- Are there a lot of spelling and linguistic mistakes on the website?
- Does it appear to have been translated with Google Translate or another free translation engine?
- Do the links on the website not work properly?
- Is the seller putting you under pressure to buy? Is the offer only available to ‘those who can decide quickly’ or ‘only today’? Limited stock?
Negative first impressions? If so, definitely avoid this webshop! If in doubt conduct further checks.
Check the identity!
Who is behind the webshop? Check that their name, actual address, contact information and company registration number can be identified on the website. This information can usually be found on the contact page, in legal stipulations or in the general terms and conditions of sale. Irrespective of where it is shown, the information must be clearly visible.
A website with a URL ending in ‘.nl’ or ‘.fr’ does not always mean that the seller is based in the Netherlands or France!
Be wary about sellers based outside the EU: your consumer rights might be affected and you risk incurring additional dispatch, VAT or customs charges or complications.
A trader must be officially registered in the country where he is established. Check the registration number in the database of that country.
- Belgium: http://kbopub.economie.fgov.be
- The Netherlands: www.kvk.nl
- Luxembourg: www.lbr.lu
- France: www.infogreffe.fr
- Germany: www.unternehmensregister.de or www.handelsregister.de
- All other European countries: https://e-justice.europa.eu
What does the address result in on Google Maps? If, for example, it turns out to be in the desert, there’s definitely something wrong.
Check via eurodns.com how long the webshop has been operating. Does the webshop turn out to be new and does it also fail one or more of the following checks? If so, it is suspect.
Note: Do you want to buy on an online platform where different sellers are active? Check who the real seller is. Is the seller a private person? In that case, you do not have a right of withdrawal for example.
Check the reputation!
Verify the seller’s/webshop’s reputation on the internet, particularly if you clicked on an advert on social media.
- Use an online search engine such as Google, Bing, etc. and enter the name of the webshop followed by “complaints” or "reviews". This will highlight other consumers’ experiences e.g. on Trustpilot, Google Reviews, TripAdvisor. However, be wary of fake reviews. You can expose them using the correct reflexes.
- Being first on the list of search results does not guarantee that the seller can be trusted!
- Does the shop have a social media profile? If so, have a look at their page. A lack of likes, followers or recent messages could be a red flag. Does the website display a quality mark or quality label? Click on the label or check the quality mark website to verify whether the webshop is actually a member.
- Does the website display a quality mark or quality label? Click on the label or check the quality mark website to verify whether the webshop is actually a member.
Check what you are ordering!
Make sure you know what you are buying before confirming your purchase and check the delivery cost and time. If the delivery time appears to be quite long, this may indicate that the product will be sent from outside the EU or the seller may be a drop shipper. If so, verify that the product meets relevant safety requirements and is not a fake. This could have significant consequences for your health and your wallet.
- Carefully read the description of what you intend to buy and don’t be fooled by the photograph or advert you clicked on.
- Does the product comply with European Union safety requirements? (CE label).
- If you are intending to buy a branded product, is it real or fake? Buying fakes is prohibited.
- Is it a one-off purchase or a subscription? The latter is sometimes stated in the small print by some sellers with the intention to mislead.
- What is the minimum duration of the agreement, e.g. with a magazine or streaming service subscription? Will the agreement be extended automatically? If so, what are the cancellation conditions? Notice periods and conditions are set nationally and can, therefore, vary from country to country.
- Do you fail to understand the language? If so, definitely refrain from making a purchase!
Check the price!
Check the price ticket for hidden costs. Were you tempted by excessively high discounts or extremely low prices? If so, be wary particularly if branded products are involved. Remember: buying and selling fakes is linked to various risks to your health, safety and your wallet.
- Is the price you are looking at the total price or are delivery charges, taxes or administration costs suddenly added during the purchasing procedure?
- What about delivery costs? Is delivery free or not?
- Will the parcel arrive from outside the EU? Sometimes you will have to pay extra for VAT, customs duties and administration costs with non-European online sellers! Are these costs clearly indicated?
- Are you buying a branded product and not sure whether the price is realistic? Check the brand website.
Remember that you will have to pay as soon as you press the order button with a payment obligation - as stipulated in European legislation.
Moreover, a bid at an auction site is, in principle, also a valid purchase! So remember not to bid for too many items simultaneously. You might well ‘win’ them all! And that means that you will have to pay for them all.
Check terms and conditions of sale!
What are the webshop’s conditions and are they in accordance with your European consumer rights?
Read the webshop’s conditions before placing an order online.
- What are the conditions of delivery and/or collection options? If delivery will take a long time, it is highly likely that the webshop will dispatch your order from outside the EU, which will have consequences for your consumer rights and how you can enforce them.
- Do you have a 14 day right of withdrawal period? And is the returns policy clear? For example, who pays the return cost?
- What does the seller stipulate about your right to a guarantee?
- How does the webshop protect your privacy? What do they do with your personal data?
- Where can you lodge a complaint in the event of problems? Perhaps the webshop is a member of a mediation or arbitration service.
Similar to a purchase made in a shop, the right of withdrawal gives you the opportunity to inspect your purchase. If the product does not fully meet with your expectations, do not use it and follow the seller’s return instructions. Remember, however, that in most cases you will be liable for the return costs.
If the product is damaged, broken or does not comply with relevant standards, use your right of guarantee to return it at the seller’s expense. In such cases they must repair, replace or refund the item.
For further details on the difference between a guarantee and the right of withdrawal visit our website.
Check the payment method!
The means of payment used on the internet is important as not all payment methods offer the same level of protection. Are you paying with a debit card (Maestro, Bancontact, Visa Debit, etc.), a prepaid credit card, via bank transfer? If so, the bank will not reimburse you in the event of problems with the seller.
Are you paying via an app? If so, check which payment means it is connected to.
How should you pay?
- Using your credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.) because in the event of problems you can contest the payment. In Belgium you can do so via www.mijnkaart.be (Dutch) or www.macarte.be (French).
- Via PayPal. You have 180 days to contest a transaction with PayPal.
- Upon receipt: this way you can inspect the parcel first.
- Avoid international money transfers (e.g. Western Union, MoneyTrans, World Remit).
- Only proceed with payment if the webpage starts with ‘https’. The ‘s’ refers to ‘secure’.
- Never reveal your bank details if you don’t have to pay for anything.
- Never reveal the pin code for your payment card.
- Only use the payment options provided by the webshop or platform itself, not by clicking on a payment link you received by e-mail or chat.
The European Consumer Centre provides information and legal advice free of charge in the event of problems with a webshop based in another European country. Using the European Consumer Centres network, we try to reach an amicable solution between you and the trader.
Want to know more about online purchases?
Question or complaint? Please call us on 02 542 33 46 or contact us online using our dedicated form.