Watch out, Black Friday!
Tomorrow is Black Friday, i.e. a campaign of inexpensive sale offers that started in the United States and that has taken over the entire Europe and also conquered Estonia. Extremely cheap offers from online traders can be found online, more than one can follow.
If buying from a physical store does not give the consumer a legal right to withdraw from the purchase and get a refund, then consumers can most of the time change their mind when shopping online. Therefore, those who are blinded by Black Friday sales, tend to regret their purchase later and they can generally return their purchases online with a 14-day right of withdrawal. But that is only in the case of a European Union trader and the trader who has been paid actually exists.
So in order to avoid disappointment, always make sure who the trader is that you are paying. The identification of fraudulent online stores is not always easy, but there are many possibilities that can save you from a bad purchasing decision when checking them.
See the data the online trader has published about themselves. The online stores in the European Union are legally obliged to disclose data that allows to identify them: business name, business address, business phone number, etc. Online shops that have a website which includes, for example, co.uk may not actually be a UK company.
The background and origin of a website can be examined by using many internet search engines, e.g. you can enter the online store’s address to the search bar of http://whois.domaintools.com/ or www.scamadviser.com to see which country the domain of the website has been registered in.
It is worth knowing that the online stores that do not have data about the trader under contact links, but where you are asked to contact the trader through a web form to find it out, are not trustworthy. Often, goods are ordered from those sites because they are cheaper and later the consumer is surprised that the actual seller of the goods resides in China because the address of the online store gave an impression that it is a UK or German store.
Specify to who should the payment be made? If you notice that the trader is outside of the European Union, e.g. in China or the US, then it is not always a warning sign, but then you just have to consider that the rules valid in the European Union, e.g. returning your goods, do not regulate your rights for this transaction. Therefore, one should very carefully ensure that the trader offers a chance to withdraw from the order, see how expensive the return of goods may be and if customs duties may be added to the price. In case of traders outside of the European Union, national consumer protection institutions, such as the Estonian Consumer Protection Board and European Consumer Centre of Estonia cannot assist you.
If you are asked to transfer the money to the seller through Western Union, it is a sign that the other side of the transaction is a private person! Consumer protection rules do not apply for a transaction between two private persons.
Read the terms of service. Even though most consumers consider themselves as adept online buyers who are well acquainted with the 14-day right of withdrawal, regular delivery times or return terms, one should still see whether and how the trader informs the consumer about the rights. Online stores who do not notify the consumer about the legal rights in an unambiguous way before purchasing are not trustworthy.
Know how to differentiate between original and fake products. During the Black Friday sales, such websites who sell so-called brand products and goods are also active. It is worth remembering that if the image or description of the product seems real but the website address includes words such as online, supreme, cheap, sale, etc. you should consider whether it is an original product before purchasing. For example, an online store selling ECCO footwear is ee.ecco.com not www.eccosale.com.
If the price of goods is several times lower than the normal price or designer products are offered with an unprecedentedly inexpensive price, then the purchase should be cancelled.
What to do when you have been the victim of a fraud?
If you have paid for the goods with a credit card and the goods have not reached you, then you should contact your bank who can initiate a chargeback procedure. This is the only way to get your money back from fraudulent traders outside of the European Union. In case of purchases within the European Union, a department of the Estonian Consumer Protection Board dealing with cross-border complaints – European Consumer Centre of Estonia can assist you. Primary advice can also be found from the website of our centre.