How often do you shop online? Forrester Research is predicting that Canadians will spend $39 billion online by 2019, representing 9.5% of all retail purchases in Canada. So what are we buying exactly?

Whether you’re booking your next vacation or buying a newly released novel, make sure you stay savvy as an online shopper. Here are our top five questions to ask yourself before you buy:

1. Does the company have a good track record with good online reviews?

Do your research and shop with a reputable company – do you know anyone who has shopped there before and how was their experience? You may also want to check their rating on the web to read other consumer feedback.

2. Is the URL “https”?

When you’re shopping online, make sure you are on https sites. Websites with “s” give you a layer of protection which is important for online security. Also, don’t store your credit card information on websites, it may put you at risk of your information being compromised.

3. What is the currency and the total cost of the purchase?

Verify the cost of the product or service, type of currency (US, Canadian or other), shipping and handling charges. Note that companies are required to tell you what currency they are using. Also, don’t forget about the cost of duty and taxes – this tool from the Canada Border Services Agency can help you find out the estimated cost.

4. How and when will your purchase be shipped and delivered?

If you are shopping for holiday or birthday gifts, or on a time crunch for some reason, check the delivery dates as they can sometimes take weeks to get to you. Remember, if it’s an international order, your package could be opened at the border for inspection.

5. What is the company’s policies on refunds, returns and warranties?

Check their return, refund and exchange policy and read the fine print. If this is not clearly listed on the website, contact them and ask.

If you feel like something isn’t right, reach out to us

If you walk away from signing a contract or paying for a product or service and something just doesn’t feel right, contact us. We are responsible for overseeing certain consumer protection laws in British Columbia. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best solution. Either way, we will do our best to give you the most relevant information.