Avoid online shopping perils

The advent of COVID-19 has seen more and more consumers resorting to online purchases but with few buyers knowing what their rights are when shopping on the net.

There are many horror stories of bad purchases made online but before writing off online shopping as strange and all too risky, let us consider the laws and regulations that may apply to it.

Raeesa Ebrahim Atkinson from Schoeman Law Inc Attorneys said the Consumer Protection
Act (CPA) 68 of 2008 provides a start from which we may derive certain rights and obligations that apply to online shopping.

“In terms of the CPA, consumers have the right to inspect and examine goods. In the context of online shopping, this may appear to be a right in words only. Reality dictates that an online shopper is not going to be able to inspect a laptop screen for hairline cracks or flip a box of cornflakes to check for an expiry date,” Atkinson said.

“Be that as it may, suppliers of goods and services are obligated in terms of the CPA to provide full and comprehensive information about the products and services they offer. Furthermore, an online purchase may be inspected upon delivery and purchasers will still be afforded the opportunity to change their minds. Other protections afforded by the CPA are supplier liability for defective goods or goods, which cause harm or loss to the
purchaser, as well as the general obligations on suppliers to ensure the quality of their goods.”

While the CPA provides assurance to consumers when buying online – the act does not apply to transactions entered into privately, that is where the seller is not a business conducting sales in the ordinary course of business.

Online classifieds sites such as Gumtree, OLX and Bidorbuy have also grown hugely in popularity, making them easy targets for criminals posing as buyers or sellers.

Whether you’re buying or selling online, follow these tips from Sanlam to make sure you’re
• Make sure the photograph and description of an item are the same. Some scammers use pictures they nd online because they don’t actually have the item they are advertising;
• Check items carefully – plug electronic items in to see if they are working, and insist on
any certificates for items such as jewellery;
• Never give a deposit on goods: only pay cash for goods that you have checked in person. Scammers get buyers to pay a deposit to ‘secure their purchase’ or for a ‘courier bill’. Walk away; and
• If the scammer gives you a physical address to collect the goods from, check Google maps to see if the address exists.

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