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For a comprehensive guide - you can download the FREE PDF The Ultimate Guide: Shopping for Bicycles and Gear Online.
This was published by us (BNA) and also has great stats on shopping trends.
1. Is there a physical address and telephone/fax number listed ?
If there is a problem with your delivery, you will want to contact the shop directly rather than relying on email. If you can't find these details but still wish to purchase, try and get into contact via email first.
2. Does the shop have SSL protection ?
When paying and entering private details online, you can protect yourself from criminals attempting to intercept and steal your details by ensuring the shop uses SSL encryption. SSL means Secure Socket Layer and basically means all data between your computer and the secure sever is encrypted.
a) You will know that a webpage is encrypted by first checking at the bottom of your browser where the lock is. The lock should be closed.
b) Secondly, look at the URL, the url should actually show https:// rather than just http:// . The s means that it is a secure server.
c) When you are on an SSL page you can often double-click on the lock symbol (or using browser menu) and open up the SSL certificate details. Important is that the certificat is VALID. If the certificate has expired or is invalid, the data between your computer and the server is still encrypted however you don't have the guarantee of knowing that your the shop receiving your personal and payment information is correctly certified... or whether their identity is correct.
Depending on your browser and configuration you may get a warning message when you enter and leave the secure area or may be able to click on the lock and view the SSL certificate. The SSL certificate contains information for encryption between your computer and the secure server, you should ensure that the name in the certificate match that of the shop where you are purchasing.
It is not so important that pages with products and shopping cart are protected, rather pages where you enter your credit card (or payment) details and private information should be secure.
3. Does the shop have a return policy ?
What happens if the parts do not fit, inquire into the return policy and warrantee and guarantee available on the product. For example, with mail order / internet purchases, who is responsible for the cost of shipping should the be a defect. It makes sense to enquire first and then judge the potential risk.
4. Do you have all of the product information you need ?
Is the product clearly described, do you know exactly what you are getting? Does the price include GST and what does the fine print say?
The service you receive when you walk into a (real) bicycle shop and talk with the sales person is not usually available when shopping online. Sales people in bicycle shops usually have a lot of experience in cycling and can help you make the best decision. If you are not certain about your decision in an online shop, maybe the few dollars that you would save (by shopping online) is worth the service you get from a sales person.
If you are new to cycling, make sure you have chosen the correct size, this is particularly critical when purchasing a bike, frame or helmet. Finally double check product details so you know are getting exactly what you want and not (for example) a cheaper model/version or the wrong size.
5. Is the product in stock ?
This will determine the delivery times, some shops have detailed information regarding their inventory so you know exactly how long delivery will take. If your order does not arrive in the time specified, then contact the shop.
6 . How much does it cost ?
Usually a shop can sell products cheaper online because they save the cost of service, shop space and keeping the product in their inventory. This doesn't guarantee that you will always buy cheaper online so shop around and compare prices.
Ensure that you are know what currency the product is being sold at, when purchasing from an overseas shop (a .com for example) do a currency conversion so you know how much the product will cost you in Australian dollars. Here is an easy-to-use currency converter XE.com Universal Currency Converter which you can bookmark.
When ordering products from overseas as customs will usually add customs duty and GST for a delivery (incl shipping) over AUD 1000. Full details and calculations are in The (free) ltimate Guide.
7. What about the cost of delivery ?
Sometimes shopping onlines is a lot cheaper, check the cost of delivery. Also, is the product expensive enough to warrant insurance on postage?Does the shop offer any security with the postage such as payment by C.O.D (Cash on delivery).
8. What methods of payment are available?
Credit Card payment is comfortable however still has a potential risk factor. Although a shop may offer SSL security, they still may store your information. Although unlikely, hackers often have a better chance of stealing credit card details after they have been saved (by a shop or business) rather than during the actual customer transaction. You can check with your credit card company regarding charges and exchange rates which may be much higher than official exchange rates.
C.O.D. has usually costs extra however you can be sure that your order is delivered. You can however only check the quality after paying and opening the package.
Cash in Advance and automatic debit is potentially risky if you are dealing with a dubious business. With a trusted shop, cash in advance can be a convenient method of payment for you and the shop however there will usually be delays in delivery as the shop waits for the payment to arrive. When making a bank transfer or payment by automatic debit, is cases of dispute, for a fee it is possible to reverse the transfer within a certain amount of time.
9. Get proof of purchase.
When your online transaction is processed most websites will provide a page outlining all details of the transaction including details of your purchase including cost and usually an 'order number' which you can use as a referrence to track the progress of your order. Take a screenshop and print out this screen for your records. Don't forget to make a note of all other relevant details that are not included such as shop address and telephone number.
Secondly, when you receive the product, included with the delivery should be a receipt or order slip which is important for warrantee.
10. Did you get what you paid for?
When your product is delivered, carefully check the contents of delivery to ensure you have received everything. If there are problems then contact the shop immediately.
It is also recommended to test or install your new products, parts (etc) to ensure that they are working properly. If you wait too long then you may not be able to return the products.
The Ultimate Guide: Shopping for Bicycles and Gear Online
87 page report published by BNA with very detailed informations, tips and statistics on online shopping
Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce website with information about scams and protecting yourself as a consumer or small business.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Theyalso have a general Online Shopping Checklist here
Edited: europa, AUbicycles
Last Edited: 14.06.2011
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