The CPPC is urging caution when buying online. Photo: Pickawood

Don’t take chances when shopping online this Christmas

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is advising consumers to follow a number of simple steps to protect themselves from rogue traders.

The CCPC is aware that consumers may be concerned that Covid-19 and Brexit-related shipping delays and stock shortages will impact on their Christmas shopping plans.

At any time of the year, if there is high consumer demand for certain products or services, it can provide an opportunity for ill-intentioned traders to take advantage.

As many consumers may be starting their Christmas shopping earlier this year, the CCPC is advising consumers to be particularly wary of traders offering popular Christmas high demand goods for sale and to follow these simple steps before they buy:

1. Always buy from reputable retailers. When shopping online, it can be hard to know who you are buying from, so it’s important to do some quick research, check reviews and social media pages. Check where the business is based. If you can’t find this information easily, approach with caution.

2. Buyer be aware. If you come across a product that is out of stock everywhere else, be careful of small unknown traders offering these high demand goods online or on social media.

Do some research, look at online consumer forums and on social media for additional consumer reviews or feedback about the business before you buy. Also remember, while price is important, don’t let it be the only deciding factor when buying online.

If it looks too good to be true, more often than not, it probably is.

3. Watch out for exclusively five-star reviews.

When reading consumer reviews on business’ websites, be wary if all of the reviews are positive. It’s important to keep in mind that products and services with authentic consumer reviews are more likely to have a mix of consumer feedback across the rating scale.

4. Browse the website before you buy. Watch out for poor English, such as spelling and grammar mistakes, or language that doesn’t sound right. Just because a website has a .ie address does not mean it is an Irish registered business.

You should also check that the website lists contact information, including a contact email address, phone number and geographical address. You can also look for VAT numbers or company registration numbers as this information can be verified through government and EU websites.

Reputable and legitimate companies will always list ways to get in touch with them, so if the website doesn’t have a ‘Contact us’ page, it could well be fraudulent.

5. Pay securely. Consider using online payment services, such as PayPal or a pre-pay credit card, so as to avoid potential scammers getting a hold of your bank account details. Pre-paid debit cards or credit cards provide an extra layer of protection as there is no direct withdrawal from your bank account.

When you are paying, look out for an ‘s’ after ‘http’ at the beginning of the url and a padlock symbol in your browser’s task bar which shows the website is secure. If it isn’t there, be very wary of proceeding any further.

6. Check the items as soon as they arrive. Open the packages and check the items for any irregularities or issues as soon as they arrive. If you are buying children’s toys online, be sure to look for the CE mark on the product, in the instruction manual or on the packaging.

Gráinne Griffin, Director of Communications with the CPPC said: “We expect that high levels of online shopping will continue in the build up to Christmas 2021. Generally at this time of year we begin to see demand for certain products growing, which can lead to pressures on parents and families.

“This year we know that consumers have additional concerns regarding shipping and possible stock shortages. It’s important for everyone to be aware that these are ideal circumstances for ill-intentioned or rogue traders, online and instore including pop up shops, to take advantage of consumers who are having trouble sourcing a particular product or toy.

“Our website also provides a range of information to help consumers whether they are shopping online or in-store, and our helpline at 01-4075555 is there to assist any consumers look for help.”

For more on shopping online, visit