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Educational Consumer Tips

Internet, Shopping on the

Author: Better Business Bureau

Consumers have many concerns about shopping on the World Wide Web. They include security, privacy, price, and exchanges.

Before any other considerations, make sure that the business has a physical address and phone number, not just a post office box.

Since virtually all web transactions involve a credit card, consumers should know what security measures are in place to keep credit card data from being intercepted. When you log on to a site on which you intend to do business, look for a secure server software program, also called an SSL, which encrypts or encodes all transmissions and transactions.

Privacy concerns deal with how personal information will be used or shared with other businesses. Policies differ widely between companies but often give you the opportunity to opt out of sharing this information. Also look for policies regarding privacy for children. Study all policies carefully.

E-commerce companies may put a `cookie' on your home computer when you place an order. In this case, that company is placing information on your hard drive to recognize you when you log on to their website. Look for reputable companies to acknowledge this up front. If you are uncomfortable with this, you may disable these `cookies' through your web browser.

Consumers may also look for a B B B OnLine and Kid's Privacy `Trustmarks' as a way to identify that a business subscribes to the standards set by the B B B for on-line business.

When comparing prices, find out about any applicable taxes and shipping charges. Study the company's refund or exchange policy since policies vary widely. When you return an item by mail, it may include restocking fees. On the other hand, in some cases an adjustment or exchange may be made at a local store.

Because this field is growing rapidly, consider delivery time when making seasonal orders to avoid disappointment. Federal law requires delivery within thirty days unless the merchant posts a different delivery policy.

Finally, bidders at online auctions should know that you usually purchase items from individuals not the company that runs the auction. Be sure you understand the limitations of the company if there is a problem.

Take your time. Shop with businesses that have earned your trust.

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