Avoiding the pitfalls in online shopping

Online shopping has taken off in Malaysian lifestyle purchasing, as statistics from Pos Malaysia, which delivers most of such purchasers, attest to. — Bernama pic
Online shopping has taken off in Malaysian lifestyle purchasing, as statistics from Pos Malaysia, which delivers most of such purchasers, attest to. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — With the ease and savings in online shopping, buying has changed for good in Malaysia. Online shopping is now very much part of the Malaysian lifestyle. And purchases online are set to increase multiple fold during Ramadan as Muslims prepare to end the holy month with the Hari Raya celebration.

Statistics provided by Pos Malaysia, which delivers the bulk of the online purchases, vouch for the popularity of online purchases.

Datuk Rohaiza Hashim, Pos Malaysia’s head of corporate communications and customer care, describes the growth of online purchases as phenomenal, with online purchases delivered to customers increasing from 29 million in 2011 to 40 million last year.

The online purchases spike 25-30 per cent during Ramadan, especially over the last two weeks before Hari Raya.

Online shopping paradise

Almost anything is available on the virtual store — apparel including headscarves (tudung), items for babies, food, holiday packages, and electronics among them. There is no need to get to the crowded shopping centres through traffic-choked roads, and to jostle with others in crowded stores. Selection and purchase can be made at the fingertips. What more, purchases are delivered to the doorstep.

Avenues for window shopping are numerous through the many social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram and even WhatsApp.

However, does virtual shopping provide the shopping experience Malaysians have been used to, especially when there is no longer the real environment — shops, stalls, sales persons etc. Yet for many, shopping online best suits their present lifestyle.

Getting away from the hassle

Manoeuvring through traffic jams and finding a parking spot is a damper for Maznah Abu Bakar, in her 40s, to get to the shops. The clerk with a government agency notes that the only time she goes to a shop is to buy groceries. The rest she buys online.

“It not only saves time, but also cost as one can save on fuel, toll and parking charges. Moreover, if one goes to the shops or shopping complexes there is a tendency to make impulsive purchases,” said Maznah, who also buys her Hari Raya apparel online.

Basics of online shopping

Maznah does her homework by gleaning the vendor’s background, and also the reviews of other purchasers. “After viewing the items at the blogs or social websites, I will compare the prices,” she says.

Maznah has been buying online over the past year. Only once has she been dissatisfied with the quality. To avoid such problems, she now contacts the seller to verify the product details. “It is also important to read the terms and conditions and learn beforehand the type, quality and material of the items before confirming the purchase and making the payment,” she said.

Online purchases gone wrong

Though some exercise caution when buying online, there are some who get carried away and end up with poor bargains or being cheated. Online shoppers need to take heed that they are vulnerable to irresponsible or bogus vendors.

The Consumer Claims Tribunal recorded 30 cases involving shortcomings in online purchases from January to May 2014. The cases involved more than 40 products and services. Among them are holiday vouchers, electronic items, telephones, printing services, apparel, women’s accessories, medication and used cars.

The highest number of cases related to purchases in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Kelantan. Since 2011 to mid-2014, 137 cases were recorded in the three states.

Rules of online transaction

The Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism has highlighted rules under the Consumer Protection (Electronic Trade Transactions) Regulations 2012 to cover consumers. However, most online traders and consumers are oblivious to these rules.

Traders have to list their details on their website such as their online business name, business registration number, email address, telephone number and address. They also have to list their products and services, the price including the delivery cost, taxes and other costs, payment methods, terms and conditions, and the delivery period.

The trader also has to allow the buyer to amend purchases, including errors in entries before confirming the order, and to check with the buyer to ensure the purchase had been received.

The law provides for fines, or jail with fines, with jail terms increased for subsequent violations.

Guide for users

More than anything else, the consumers themselves have to ensure that they do not end up as the victims of unscrupulous vendors, or end up buying what they did not want in the first place. Online shoppers have to make sure the online business is registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoC).

So far 616 companies and 19,198 online traders have registered with the RoC.

Buyers have to be aware of the terms and conditions, and even the risks. Apart from buying from a reliable outfit, buyers should be aware of prevailing market prices, and avoid being taken in by extreme low-price offers.

Look at the reviews to ensure the vendor’s reliability, and ensure the vendor’s site allows a safe and secure transaction.

Where it’s possible, get the contact details of the seller and call beforehand to confirm the purchase and make the payment only to the seller and no one else.

The buyer should also query the delivery dates so that crossed cheques can be made if the goods do not arrive within the stipulated period.

Buyers should also make use of the return policy clause if the goods they purchased fell short of what the vendor promised.

They should also note that purchases from vendors overseas involve higher costs owing to exchange rates and higher delivery charges.

Most importantly, print the online transaction payment receipts, and keep them until the items have been delivered. — Bernama

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