Prior to purchasing
To avoid unpleasant surprises when shopping online, the European Consumer Centre advises you to pay attention to the following points when shopping:
The professional seller on the Internet must provide his name, address and telephone number. An e-mail address alone is not enough. Make sure to read the legal notice as well as the general terms and conditions of sale.
The trader must describe the item offered for sale in detail. He must equally, and in writing, confirm receipt of a given order.
Check that the price includes VAT, any administration fees and delivery charges. If you are ordering from outside the European Union, customs duties and other taxes may considerably add to the price.
The order and the right of withdrawal
To be on the safe side, save your order confirmation together with the completed order form and if possible, the initial product description. This way, in the event of a dispute, you can prove in writing what you ordered and at what price. Please note that throughout the EU, you have a cooling-off period of at least 14 days during which you can return your order without any reason or penalty. You may however have to pay for the return shipping costs.
Try to clarify the question of delivery times with the trader beforehand and set a precise deadline. Upon delivery, always check the condition of the goods and immediately report any damage by indicating it on the delivery slip and then reporting it in writing to the trader.
Check that the payment method is secure (i.e. displaying a padlock and URL beginning with https://...). If the goods ordered are not delivered, the price paid by credit card for the purchase may be recovered from the credit card issuer. If possible, try to avoid paying via companies that specialise in person-to-person online money transfers. This method of payment is only recommended for payments between relatives.
General Terms and Conditions
The General Terms and Conditions (GTC) are established in advance by the seller of a product or a service. They set out the rights and duties of the parties to the contract and allow the consumer to clearly know the rules that apply to the contract he or she is about to enter into.
We strongly recommend reading the GTC carefully before making any order and possibly keeping a copy of the latter, as they contain valuable information for consumers.
The GTC must have been accepted by the buyer to be enforceable. Such acceptance is either explicit or tacit.
Tacit acceptance signifies that you have had the opportunity to become familiar with the GTC before or at the conclusion of the contract and you must not have protested against them.
When the GTC are on the reverse of the order, in the letter confirming the order or within the preliminary cost estimate, their existence should be mentioned on the front side. In many cases, the contract will include a statement such as “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions” above the signature, or in a simple check box. A clause may be declared unfair by a judge if it implies significant damage to consumer rights or if it imposes more obligations. Such a clause will be rejected. However, the remainders of the agreement remain valid.
Protection of personal data
Check the supplier's statements on the processing of personal data and its transfer to third parties. Since 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) strengthens the rights of consumers regarding the processing of their personal data.
Scams and frauds
Be wary of extremely cheap offers or products that are presented as real bargains. Make use of internet search engines and forums to look up the name of the online retailer and to see what other consumers have said. Also look out for the increasing number of fraudulent e-mail offers such as fake lotteries, phishing and other scams promising a large sum of money.
In the event of a dispute due to non-receipt or non-conformity of the goods to the advertisement, the online auction and payment platforms provide for maximum time limit for making a claim. We advise you to read the general terms and conditions of sale of these sites carefully.
Also be careful when buying from a private individual, even through an auction site, as you will not have the same rights and you will not be able to use your right of withdrawal.
Are you sure the web shop you want to buy from is trustworthy? Check it with the “Webshop Check” of ECC Belgium.