Know who you are dealing with
Research the seller
When buying from an online seller:
- get advice from family, friends. Check online forums, feedback and reviews from previous customers
- look up their Australian Company Number (ACN), if they are claiming to be a registered company, by visiting the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) website(external link)
- look up their Australian Business Number (ABN), if they are claiming to be a registered business, by visiting the ABN lookup website (external link)
- look for a seller which clearly advertises their services
- check for contact details. This will make it easier for you to contact them if things go wrong.
Read the seller's refund and returns policy
If there is a problem with the item you buy, you may be entitled to return it under the Australian Consumer Law. The seller may also have their own refund policy with additional refund rights.
Check the website is secure
- a key symbol or padlock at the bottom of your browser window
- a web address that starts with https:// instead of http:// in the address bar
- a security policy outlining how they will protect your personal details.
Keep your money safe
Online payment services
Think carefully before paying directly into the seller's bank account. It is safer to use your credit card or an online payment service such as PayPal or BPay, because you can question the charges if there is a problem or if your purchase does not arrive.
If you paid with a credit card or selected 'credit' on a MasterCard or Visa debit card, you may be able to seek a reversal of the transaction, called a chargeback. You can also seek a chargeback through PayPal - note that PayPal has its own complaint processes.
You may wish to consider using an escrow agent, which is a third party who holds a payment in trust until you receive and accept the item.
Interest free deals
If you are buying goods using an interest-free or 'buy now, pay later' deal - such as Afterpay - make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully and know when each payment is due. For more information, visit the Interest-free deals page on ASIC's MoneySmart website.
Know exactly what you are buying
Before confirming your purchase:
- make sure there is a picture and clear description of the item
- read the terms and conditions
- check for any additional charges
- look out for check boxes that have been automatically ticked
- if the seller is overseas, check if the item can be legally imported - visit the Australian Customs website (external link)
- make sure you know the total amount
To ensure that your item can be easily tracked or replaced, it is recommend that you:
- have it sent via registered mail, or
- purchase delivery insurance.
Once you have confirmed your purchase, keep records of:
- any forms you fill in
- the confirmation page and receipt
- pages in the website outlining the offer you have accepted
- related emails.
This page has been produced and published by the Consumer Building and Occupational Services Division of the Department of Justice. Although every care has been taken in production, no responsibility is accepted for the accuracy, completeness, or relevance to the user's purpose of the information. Those using it for whatever purpose are advised to verify it with the relevant government department, local government body or other source and to obtain any appropriate professional advice. The Crown, its officers, employees and agents do not accept liability however arising, including liability for negligence, for any loss resulting from the use of or reliance upon the information and/or reliance on its availability at any time.