Tips for successfull online shopping

Successful online shopping

Since consumer protection for Internet users is still being developed, there are certain guidelines to follow when ordering online. has put together the most important tips and guidelines for successful online shopping.

What needs to be paid attention to when paying with a credit card in online shops?

  1. Provide credit card information only when the Internet connection is secured with SSL. A 128 bit SSL connection is recommended.
  2. Use 'Print Screen' to document purchases and payment confirmations.
  3. Do not make credit card payments from publicly accessible computers. Data in the cache of a computer/browser can be accessed at a later time. After placing an order, delete the history/cache of the computer.
  4. Do not answer any requests for credit card information on the telephone.
  5. Use virus protection and a firewall to protect against incursions by third parties. Firewalls integrated into modems and routers also provide protection against unauthorised access.
  6. Activate the private browsing mode in the browser. This ensures that no trace of activity is left on the computer. History, cookies or temporary Internet data are not saved. Anonymous surfing modes are supported by the browsers Chrome, Internet ExplorerSafari and Firefox.

Types of payment in online shops

  • Payment by invoice: a type of payment rather seldom used with online shops. The invoice is paid after receipt of the goods.
  • Credit card payments: widely used type of payment in online shops. If the tips on credit card transactions are followed, this payment method is safe and uncomplicated. Thanks to the increasingly prevalent use of the '3-D Secure' security standard, paying by credit card is becoming even safer. When paying, a personal password has to be entered in addition to the credit card information. 3-D Secure is called "SecureCode" with Mastercard and "Verified by Visa" with Visa. However, transaction costs of 1.5 to 2 percent for credit card payments can be added on, which the merchant should indicate during the checkout process. Credit card payments can be cancelled under certain conditions. Check with the credit card company for more information.
  • Collect on delivery: a type of payment used by few online shops. Payment is made to the postman or post office on receipt of the goods. Note: there is always an extra fee for collect on delivery orders, which is typically paid by the customer. This is added to the purchase price at the conclusion of an order. Online shops show the collect on delivery charge along with shipping costs on their website. In most cases the collect on delivery charge is paid by the customer. Advantage: there is no exchange of account information and payment occurs only on receipt of the goods. Disadvantage: if returning the goods, it may take a while for the paid amount to be refunded. Moreover, payments with collect on delivery are expensive (surcharge is about 10 - 20 francs depending on the package and merchant).
  • PSP (payment service provider): PSP services are offered, for example, by PostFinance, Datatrans and SIX. They act as an intermediary between an online merchant and various financial institutions and provide a secure connection for forwarding and processing a customer's sensitive credit card information.
  • Prepayment: after placing an order, the customer receives a written or electronic confirmation along with payment information. As soon as the payment has been received, the online shop begins the shipping process. Note: never send cash in an envelope. In general, one should be cautious about prepaying for an Internet order. If the merchant does not follow through with his obligations, the customer must generally take legal action in order to obtain a refund. If, in the worst case, the online merchant goes bankrupt, the danger exists that the money is lost.


Purchase agreements with online merchants

Generally a purchase agreement comes into effect only after the merchant has made a binding offer and the purchaser accepts this offer. From this point on, a purchase agreement is binding and cannot easily be retracted.

Details on purchase agreements with online merchants:

  1. The offer from the merchant on the Internet is not yet binding. That is, the customer is not yet entitled to a particular price listed on the merchant's website.
  2. Using the order form on the website of the merchant. The customer makes a commitment to accept the offer as seen on the website. The customer is obligated to purchase the ordered product if it is delivered within the given delivery time and at the stated price.
  3. If the price or delivery time changes after the order has been placed, the customer is no longer obligated to purchase the item. The merchant must inform the customer about any such changes. Only once the customer has agreed to the new price and/or delivery time is there a purchase obligation.
  4. The merchant is obligated to deliver the ordered item once the customer has approved the order. The customer will usually receive an e-mail with the order confirmation. If no changes to the price or delivery time are stated, it can be presumed that the item will be delivered under the terms shown on the website. The merchant can also accept an order by charging the purchase price for the item to the customer's credit card. An order can be considered to be accepted if the customer does not hear from the merchant within a "reasonable" amount of time (about one week).


Online shopping tips

Tip 1: Check the shopping basket
For an online order, the electronic shopping basket should be carefully checked. Is it really the desired item at the indicated price? The details on the website of the online merchant are applicable.

Tip 2: Indicate special requests in the comments field
If an item is needed by a certain time, this should be indicated in the comments field on the order form (e.g. "order valid only if the item can be delivered by 15 August"). The merchant is obligated to take the comments on the order form into consideration if possible. If not informed otherwise, it can be assumed that the merchant has agreed to the request.

Tip 3: Get written confirmation of verbal agreements
Obtain and keep written confirmation of verbal agreements with a merchant (also see Tip 4).

Tip 4: Keep all documentation
Keep all documents having to do with the order (order, confirmation and other communication from the merchant). In case of a dispute, these documents can be used as proof of agreements.

Tip 5: Pay attention to the general terms and conditions (T&Cs)
By all means pay attention to the general terms and conditions of the merchant. The T&Cs generally define the extent to which a merchant must provide a guarantee or assume liability and whether the customer is entitled to return or exchange items. The T&Cs are effective:

  • if they are agreed to before an order has been sent, for example if the customer confirms on the order form that he has read and agrees to the T&Cs by clicking a check box "I accept the general terms and conditions").
  • if the effectiveness of the T&Cs is indicated, for example if it is noted on the order form that the order is "subject to the general terms and conditions".

Important: If not in agreement with the T&Cs, this must be communicated to the merchant before placing an order. This can also be indicated in the comments field on the order form. If not informed otherwise, it can be assumed that the merchant has accepted the request. If no comments field is available, one should contact the merchant directly. In case a verbal agreement is made, this should be confirmed in writing. Should subsequent agreements be made with the merchant, these take effect over the T&Cs.

Tip 6: Contact the merchant with warranty issues
In general, electronics are covered by a statutory warranty from the producer. In Switzerland a warranty is normally for one year, though it can be longer depending on the producer and product. In a warranty case, the merchant must send the defective item to the producer or importer.

In general, the customer must personally bring or send the item to a service centre. The websites of most online merchants direct customers to the producer or a service centre. The customer is responsible for shipping costs. Return costs are handled differently. A large television weighing 30 kilograms can cost up to 50 francs to ship in one direction.

Although not obligated, the producer often assumes these costs out of good will.

Tip 7: Right of return
There exists no legal right for a customer to return an item. However, many merchants are accommodating and accept returned items under certain conditions. Details on the possibility of a return are outlined in a merchant's T&Cs. If nothing is indicated, then there is no right of return.

Tip 8: Pay attention to the time period for the exchange of defective products
If a merchant delivers a defective or the wrong product, the customer has the right to an exchange. Be sure that the product is exchanged as quickly as possible, no later than within a week, with a written explanation of the reason for the exchange. The merchant is obligated to replace or repair the item if it is defective or incorrect. If the merchant does not meet this obligation, the customer can back out of the purchase agreement and request reimbursement of already made payments.

Tip 9: Insure the shipment
The customer generally carries responsibility for the shipment of an item. Responsibility begins as soon as an item has been handed over to a shipper (transfer of risk). From this moment on, the customer bears liability for the shipment. Here too, the merchant often shows good will by insuring the shipment. If this is not the case, contact the merchant and take out shipping insurance if necessary.