Consumer Council: Don’t bag yourself a surprise shopping online this Christmas!

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With many of us venturing online to work our way through our Christmas lists, Consumer Council research has revealed that of those who shop online only a quarter check a website is safe before entering payment or personal details.

Providing timely online shopping advice Philippa McKeown-Brown, Head of Consumer Empowerment and Protection at the Consumer Council said “Online shopping has become increasingly popular, especially at this time of year with multiple deals and discounts on offer. With this in mind it is important consumers know their online shopping rights and avoid any costly pitfalls.”

Six steps to shopping safely online are:

  1. Make sure the website offers a safe payment facility – look for ‘https’ in the website address (the ‘s’ stands for secure) and check for a padlock icon in the browser bar.
  2. If you’re buying from a company you haven’t used before, research them first to check reviews and previous customers’ feedback.
  3. Avoid clicking on web links sent to you in an email as these may direct you to a fake (but realistic looking) website. Better to type in a website address yourself into a search engine and see what comes up.
  4. Impulse shopping? With goods bought online you have a 14 day cooling-off period to cancel most types of orders, return the items and get your money back. Remember it is only a bargain if you needed it.
  5. Paying by credit card for single items costing £100 and over gives you valuable legal protection if goods don’t arrive,  are faulty, or don’t match the description. Paying by credit or debit card for orders costing less than £100 also gives you protection using your card provider’s voluntary ‘Chargeback’ scheme.
  6. Before you buy – check the company delivers to Northern Ireland, what the delivery times will be and at what cost. By law, the web retailer must make this clear at the beginning before you place the order.

For more top tips download a copy of the Consumer Council’s ‘Guide to Shopping Safely Online’ from or request a free hardcopy by telephoning 0800 121 6022, Twitter (ConsumerCouncil) or Facebook (Consumer Council Northern Ireland).


  1. Consumer Council’s Consumers in Control Report 2016
  2. Consumer Council Media Contact:  Siobhan Rafferty telephone 028 9025 1655 / 07825 147496 and email
  3. The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about buses, trains, planes, ferries, natural gas, electricity, coal and water.
  4. For more information, visit or Facebook  The-Consumer-Council-Northern-Ireland/ or Twitter @ConsumerCouncil



Siobhan Rafferty
Senior Communications Officer

Direct line: 028 9025 1655 (ext. 51655)