Consumer Information


E-Commerce: General Guide for Consumers

Checking out an online business
It can be difficult judging the quality of a business from thousands of miles away. To determine a website’s reliability, you should rely on various factors, such as recommendations from family and friends or the site’s membership in a trustmark or trust seal program.

Check the website for the business's contact details (physical address, including the country, and email or phone). If something goes wrong with your transaction, you will have the information you need to make contact with the business.

Check that the business provides access to all its terms and conditions of sales - its refund policy, its security and privacy information.

Check for any conditions that place limits on sales - for example: goods may not be available for delivery outside of the country; a certain quantity of goods may have to be ordered; or certain goods cannot be ordered by minors (wine sales for example).

Although you may not experience any problems transacting online, take time to check for information on the website about the business's internal complaints procedure or mechanism.

Do you know what you are paying for?
Check that the business supplies clear and accurate information about the goods or services it is offering for sale. This should include description, price information, any limitations on purchases (for example prohibits sales to minors or has minimum or maximum ordering conditions).

Check that prices disclose what currency they are in.

Check that the website discloses or alerts you to requirements to pay taxes or duty on any purchase.

Postage/delivery costs should be itemised separately from the cost for the goods.

Returns and refunds conditions
Check for information on the website about the business's policy on cancellations, returns or refunds. If you make a purchase, we suggest you print off a copy of the returns policy for future reference.

If paying for the goods or services on-line check to see if the business has secure payment facilities available. Check also whether the browser is secure and encrypts personal and payment information. For example, look for a closed padlock symbol or information stating that information is encrypted, or a website address that begins with "https:"

If you send personal information (such as a credit card number) through an non-secure website, or even through electronic mail, someone may intercept that information and misuse it.

Payment System Protections
As a payment cardholder, you may have some protections against the unauthorized use of your payment card. Many countries have laws that limit your liability for unauthorized transactions, and some card issuers provide additional protections voluntarily. These protections are implemented in a variety of ways. Click here to learn more about the types of protections that may be available to you.

All businesses will require information from you to process an order. Check for the business's privacy policy on their website. The statement should advise what information is collected, how it will be used, and provide you with an opportunity to refuse having your information sold or shared with others. You should think twice before doing business with a website that will not respect your privacy.

Before concluding your transaction, a website should provide a confirmation page so that you can identify the goods or services you wish to purchase, identify and correct any errors, and modify your order if necessary.

The website should also allow you to retain a complete record of the transaction after you have concluded it.

What to do if something goes wrong

Step 1: Contact the business with the details of your complaint.

Step 2: File a complaint with government consumer protection agencies

Step 3: Try to resolve your complaint


Electronic Commerce Basics

Commerce is the exchange of goods and services for money. In olden days, there was a form of commerce called the barter system in which goods were exchanged in lieu of other goods or services. By the time paper money was introduced, it's use revolutionized the way the commerce was conducted. In recent years, commerce is also being conducted via electronic medium like the Internet. This commerce is called eCommerce.

Electronic commerce (eCommerce) is an integration of communication services, data management, and security mechanisms that allows organizations to exchange information about the sale of goods and services, where:

Communication Services support the transfer of information from the buyer to the seller electronically.

Data Management is the exchange and storing of data in a uniform format to facilitate easy exchange of information.

Security Mechanisms authenticate the source of information and guarantee the integrity and privacy of information.

In other words, eCommerce involves marketing, retailing, customer service, banking, billing, corporate sector purchasing, secure distribution of data, and other value-added services over the Internet.

Types Of Electronic Commerce
Electronic commerce can be categorized into four categories:

* Business-to-Consumer
* Business-to-Business
* Consumer-to-Consumer
* Consumer-to-Business.

Currently, the first two categories are the most popular models of eCommerce:

Business-to-Consumer Model
In this model, commerce is conducted between a consumer, such as a home user on a PC, and a business. As an example, to buy books or CDs, the consumer accesses the business' Internet site and makes purchases.

For example one can purchase music cassettes and CDs from the web site

In the above you select the cassettes from a wide range that is available and then eventually pay online. This is a very convenient exercise, which will help save time and provide variety.

Business-to-Business Model
In this model, commerce is conducted between two businesses. It includes trading goods like business subscriptions, professional services, and wholesale dealing. Sometimes, business may exist between virtual companies, neither of which may have any physical existence.

Consumer-to-Consumer Model
In this model, commerce is conducted between two consumers. This can be seen in auction bidding houses. In this example, commerce is conducted between a consumer who is auctioning and consumers who are bidding for it. The consumer who is auctioning decides the price of the product. The consumers who are bidding analyze the product and decide how much they value it.

Consumer-to-Business Model
In this model, commerce is conducted between a consumer and a business. The model is still in its evolving stage. This may come up as a model in which the goods are produced and the price of the product would be dictated by the consumer rather than the supplier. This may revolutionize the way businesses are conducted over the Web, or even otherwise.


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