Ecommerce: buying securely online

With almost half of adult New Zealanders now buying things online, it’s important to follow some simple advice when looking to purchase from an online retailer.

NetSafe get reports every week from disgruntled shoppers who pay money via wire transfer for goods that never arrive, receive counterfeit copies of branded items or fall out with another party in the auction process.


  • Poor quality goods
  • Slow delivery or goods never arrive
  • Item is poorly described or doesn’t match description
  • Seller can’t be contacted after payment
  • Payment cannot be recovered or refunded

What to look out for

Online shopping has opened up many opportunities for Kiwis to purchase a wider range of goods at lower prices but you need to follow these common sense steps before parting with your money:

  • Check the website lists contact information – a phone number, email address and physical street address are the best signs a business is established and genuine
  • Search the Whois information behind a website domain name – if the record is anonymous or protected be suspicious. Equally if the name has only recently been registered but the company claims a long trading history ask questions directly
  • Compare the price listed with other stores (and check the currency). If it’s too cheap that could indicate a bargain buy you may not receive
  • Think of additional costs you might incur if the item is being shipped from overseas – your parcel may be stopped by Customs and GST, any duty and other fees levied that makes the price much higher than anticipated
  • Is the payment system secure? Look for a padlock icon in your browser and an https:// website address to indicate your credit card data is encrypted
  • Check out return, exchange, or refund policies so you know what will happen if the item is wrong or damaged
  • Where is the company based? NZ retailers will be covered by our laws but overseas companies can be difficult to deal with if purchase goes bad
  • Do the company have a privacy policy? Be certain your purchase won’t lead to your personal information be used for marketing from others or spam messages
  • Does the seller respond quickly to email or phone inquiries before you buy? Bad service at this stage might indicate further issues if you pay money over.
  • How are you expected to pay? Using a credit card brings some consumer protection even for overseas purchases. Never send money by wire transfer as it’s untraceable and often can’t be stopped once sent.
  • When bidding on an auction ask questions up front and be certain the seller is in NZ
  • If something doesn’t feel right – the price is too good or there’s only a contact web form – then trust your instinct and find another seller.

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