Online shopping

Tips for trouble-free online shopping and returns

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Source: iStock / svetikd

You can buy pretty much whatever you like on the Internet: shoes, ice-cream makers, garden furniture – you name it. Online shopping is booming in Switzerland. But what do you do if you receive a faulty ice-cream maker or decide you want something else instead? Comparis has taken a close look at the terms and conditions of the biggest online retailers.

In 2019, more parcels were delivered in Switzerland than ever before. Online shopping is partly responsible for this record. Retailers like Zalando make it incredibly easy to order things online and return them if necessary. However, returns policies and processing can vary widely from store to store. Comparis explains what to watch out for.

Before you order

Which retailers can you trust?

Check, for example, that the site provides the company's address, e-mail address and telephone number and its general terms and conditions. Make sure the text is not littered with mistakes and that the links work. The site should display detailed information about the company and at least one quality assurance certificate or “trustmark” e.g. Trusted Shops or the Association of Swiss Mail Order Companies (VSV) (in German and French only). Click on the logo of the trustmark to make sure it links to the correct website.

Try to place your online order from a private rather than a public computer wherever possible. You should also verify that the data is sent via a secure connection. Online retailers should ensure that data is encrypted before it is transferred. You can identify a secure connection by the https:// prefix in your browser's address line, or by symbols like a padlock icon in the bottom browser bar. You should also install virus protection software and a firewall and, if possible, enable private browsing mode in the browser to provide extra protection against third-party attacks. Browsers that support privacy or “incognito” modes are Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox. If you cannot browse in privacy mode, you should clear your browsing history after shopping.

When placing your order

What's in my basket?

Check your electronic shopping basket carefully when placing an order online. Have you selected the correct quantity? Is it the product you wanted and is the price right? The applicable prices are those displayed on the online retailer's home page.

Do I have to pay for delivery?

Most online stores do not charge extra for delivery and offer partial shipments. However, they do apply minimum order quantities, which can differ slightly from store to store. For example, at Digitec/Galaxus and Brack, there is a small order surcharge of 9 francs, while if you spend less than 49 francs at Interdiscount, you will be charged for delivery. At H&M, you generally pay 4.90 francs per parcel unless you have an H&M membership card (available free of charge), in which case shipping is free on orders of 20 francs or more.

If you order from retailers outside Switzerland, you will often have to pay tax and customs fees on top. The standard fee is usually between 11.50 and 16 francs. A supplement of 3% is also added to the taxable value of the item.

How can I pay?

In Switzerland, the most secure way to pay is by invoice. The online payment service PayPal also guarantees a high level of security. Once you have set up your PayPal account, you can pay online quite easily by using your e-mail address and password instead of having to enter sensitive payment information. Credit cards are also usually considered a safe bet – you just need to be careful and use your common sense. All the companies we studied accept a range of payment methods, but all Swiss online retailers allow customers to pay via Twint. There are slight differences in the payment fees charged. Digitec/Galaxus, for instance, charges 1 franc plus 2% of the invoice amount for payments by invoice.

The table below shows the payment methods accepted by the online retailers in our study.

Online shop Credit card PayPal Invoice Twint
Zalando
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
No
            
Digitec/Galaxus
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Yes, for a fee
            
Yes
            
Amazon
            
Yes
            
No
            
Yes
            
No
            
H&M
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Members only
            
Yes
            
Aliexpress
            
Yes
            
No
            
Yes
            
No
            
Nespresso
            
Yes
            
No
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Brack
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Microspot
            
Yes
            
Yes, for a fee
            
Yes, for a fee
            
Yes
            
Wish
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
No
            
Interdiscount
            
Yes
            
No
            
Yes
            
No
            
Nettoshop
            
Yes
            
Yes, for a fee
            
Yes, for a fee
            
Yes
            
Mediamarkt
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Yes
            
Yes
            

After placing your order

Should I keep my order confirmation?

Keep all records associated with your purchase (payment and order confirmation, other e-mails and/or letters from the retailer). If there are any problems or queries relating to your order, you can use these documents as proof.

Do I have the right to cancel my order at any time?

No. In 2015, the Council of States rejected the right to cancel in the context of buying goods online. Although customers have two weeks to withdraw from a purchase agreement arranged by telephone, this does not apply to online purchases – unlike in the European Union, where the right to cancel applies to online purchases as well. In light of this, the returns policies of Amazon and Zalando are more generous. Online stores in Switzerland, with the exception of Nettoshop, do nevertheless give buyers the option to cancel their order. Nettoshop only allows buyers to exchange items. If you do wish to return an item after receiving it, you shouldn't tarry. Nettoshop has the shortest returns policy of 10 days, most others offer 14 days, but Digitec/Galaxus and Amazon accept returns within 30 days.

What can I send back?

Usually, you can return anything that is undamaged and still in its original packaging and you will get a full refund. If the packaging has been opened, most Swiss online retailers will deduct a minimum amount of 10%. Comparis’ digital expert Jean-Claude Frick believes that this is fair: “Electronics retailers cannot sell products for the full price if they have been opened. They must claim back the discount offered to the new buyer from the original buyer.” Amazon and Zalando are more lenient and will refund the full purchase price even if the packaging has been opened. In addition, all online retailers have a whole list of products that cannot be returned:

  • Damaged or used items or those not in their original packaging
  • Electronic software licences or opened software whose seal is broken
  • Food, including opened boxes of capsules
  • Opened consumables (filters, ink and toner cartridges etc.)
  • Opened personal hygiene products (toothbrushes, razors etc.)
  • Opened products for preparing or storing food (food processors, frying pans, Tupperware etc.)
  • Opened child car seats

Who pays the return shipment costs?

Zalando is the only retailer that always pays the cost of return shipment. In most cases, it is the buyer who pays these costs, except if the item is faulty, incomplete or delivered in error. At Nettoshop, Aliexpress and Wish, the buyer pays the return costs. The advantage of buying from Swiss retailers is that there is the option of returning the item to a shop, which saves you paying the cost of return delivery.

How easy is it to return an item?

Zalando is the most straightforward. Each parcel contains a return label and form, and the return delivery can be requested online in a few clicks. Microspot and Digitec/Galaxus also allow you to complete the process online too. To return items to Mediamarkt, customers must first download a form. This retailer maintains that shop returns are easier.

At Nettoshop, customers have to fill in a contact form or send an e-mail to request an exchange. Returns must also be notified by e-mail or telephone at Interdiscount. If you want to return anything to the bargain marketplace Wish, you have to contact the support department and often provide photos to justify the return.

Who is responsible for guarantees?

All Swiss online retailers in our study offer the legal minimum guarantee of two years on their products. Problems can arise, however, when it comes to claiming on the guarantee. Microspot refers customers to the manufacturer. Nettoshop and Brack want to examine the faulty product themselves first before deciding on how to proceed. Says Frick: “Sending the product to the retailer first might involve an extra step, but since the purchase agreement is with the retailer and not the manufacturer, the retailer is responsible for managing the guarantee, exchange or repair process.”

Wish and Aliexpress don't offer any guarantees. If you order a technical product from Aliexpress, you have the option of purchasing a one-year guarantee.

You can find information about guarantees in the general terms and conditions. Unless otherwise specified in the general terms and conditions, buyers who receive a faulty product have three options:

  1. Return the item (Art. 205 et seq. of the Swiss Code of Obligations (OR))
  2. Request a reduction in the purchase price (Art. 205 et seq. OR)
  3. Request a non-defective replacement (Art. 205 et seq. OR)

It is usually possible to return a defective item. You should notify the retailer as soon as you discover a defect, because your right to make guarantee claims expires after two years. This period cannot be made shorter in the contract.

Tip

Don't forget to clear the purchase from your browser history or computer’s memory cache if you were not able to browse in privacy mode, otherwise this data can be read at a later date in the browser's cache. Watch out for fraudulent e-mails too – be suspicious of any e-mail requesting confidential data such as passwords or credit card information. Reputable companies will never ask for this type of information by e-mail or via a link or form.

Summary

Shopping with the largest online retailers is easy, but there are differences in the options for returning goods and the price you pay to do so. Informed shoppers who do their research beforehand can save money here. Because of the limited options for returning and exchanging goods and the charges applied, Nettoshop, Aliexpress and Wish appear lower down the list in the Comparis price comparison tool. Smaller shops, of which we studied a random sample, base their conditions on those of larger mail order companies and tend to offer similarly attractive conditions.