BBB Received Nearly Six Times More Complaints In 2012 Than 2011
The latest smart phone release reveals consumers are willing to tolerate long lines to get the latest electronic devices. However, many prefer skip the line and jump online to find good discounts on all sorts of household items. However, before you do, Better Business Bureau is warning online shoppers to beware of questionable advertisements and phony websites.
BBB received six times more complaints nationally against online retailers in 2012 than the previous year – from 62 in 2011 to 347 complaints in 2012. Most consumers allege they were charged undisclosed fees and taxes, while others claim they were charged for a product they later discovered was out of stock and undeliverable.
While 347 complaints may not seem like a huge global number, that statistic is only be a fraction of complaints related to internet sales, and serves as an reminder that buying products on the internet isn’t always what it seems to be.
When considering the purchase of an electronic device or any item from an online retailer, it’s important for consumers to do their research. Make sure the price advertised is specifically for the device you want - not a similar version. Also, remember that not all websites are legitimate. Ensure the site is secure by looking for the “s” in https when entering your payment information. That “s” is often accompanied by a graphic of a small padlock, and indicates you are dealing with a website that has taken steps to protect your information.
BBB advises consumers to also look out for the following when planning to do business with an online retailer:
1) Advertised prices are much lower than retail - Everyone is looking for a bargain on electronics and scammers use tantalizingly low prices to lure victims in. If the prices for items are well below those of trusted competitors, be prepared to walk away.
2) Spelling and grammar - Many phony electronics websites are created by scammers overseas and you can spot them because they usually contain spelling and grammar mistakes.
3) Payment via wire transfer only - Scammers often ask victims to wire payments because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved in the case of fraud. BBB recommends always using a credit card to pay for electronics online. If the website turns out to be fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. Beware of retailers and auction and classified ad sellers who refuse to accept a secure form of payment.
4) Lack of information - Always try to find a seller’s physical address, not just a post office box and telephone phone number. Research the company’s name and website for additional information. Check bbb.org for detailed information about the company, including owner information and history of complaints.
5) Fraudulent security seals - When shopping online, you want to look for the seals of trusted organizations and confirm that the business’s use of the seal is legitimate. You can typically do this by clicking on the seal which, if legitimate, will link you to a confirmation page on the certifying organization’s site. For BBB Accredited Businesses using the dynamic seal on their website, the clickable link will direct the consumer back to the company’s BBB Business Review.
6) Compare prices based on shipping and handling – Pricing for merchandise varies widely on the internet, but before you finish your purchase, make sure that any savings on the item’s price aren’t offset by high shipping and handling costs.
You will find additional consumer tips at www.bbb.org.
-Submitted by Howard Schwartz, Executive Communications Director, Connecticut Better Business Bureau
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