Consumer advocates: How to avoid bad purchases on the Internet

Customers are increasingly complaining about problems with online shops: long delivery times, poor quality and problems with returns. That’s why and how to avoid the problems.

The Hamburg Consumer Advice Center warns of “bad purchases on the Internet” (quote from consumer advocates), which arise when customers unknowingly shop in foreign online shops that they mistake for German shops. The Hamburg Consumer Advice Center keeps a list of online shops about which buyers have recently complained. Those affected can also describe their own experiences there.

This is how the problem arises and these are the consequences

The online shops would look professional and have a German-language name. The domain ending is .de and the imprint suggests that the company is based in Germany. All of this suggests smooth processing of returns and guarantees, but that’s not the case, as consumer advocates warn.

At the moment, more and more consumers are complaining to the Hamburg Consumer Advice Center who have ordered clothing and other everyday items from foreign online shops without being aware of it. According to the consumer advocates, those affected feel deceived, because most customers were not aware that the shops were operated by providers outside of Europe. The Hamburg consumer advice center therefore advises you to look very carefully when shopping online.

Problem: Long delivery times

Most customers would only be suspicious if the ordered goods were a long time coming. Although the clothing and items in the shops are usually declared as “immediately available” and are usually sent quickly with a tracking number, it often takes several weeks for the goods to finally arrive in Germany.

Problem: Poor quality

Customers are often disappointed with the quality of the goods. Consumer advocates warn that the product photos and item descriptions on the shop pages have little in common with reality. Wrong materials are often reported or the processing of the products leaves a lot to be desired.

Problem: return

But when customers want to cancel their purchases because the delivery arrived too late or did not meet expectations, then the trouble really starts. The online shop may not have an imprint at all or can only be reached via a contact form. There is no phone number to call. In addition, it is often unclear with whom the purchase contract was actually concluded and how a reverse transaction should take place.

In some cases, a Chinese address suddenly appears as the contact for the revocation and return of goods instead of the incomplete German address in the imprint. However, returns there usually have to be made at your own expense – which can then be as expensive as the actual order.

That’s what consumer advocates recommend

First of all, customers should be aware of this fact: A German name and .de as the country-specific top-level domain for Germany do not mean that you are automatically dealing with a German contractual partner.

Check the imprint carefully before purchasing. If important information about the operator of the shop is missing there, it is better not to make a purchase.

Check the return conditions before you buy. The consumer advocates point out the following points in particular:

  • Is it even possible to return products?

  • Which deadlines apply?

  • Where do the goods have to be sent?

  • What are the costs associated with the return?

Do not pay in advance, i.e. not by bank transfer or credit card. Instead, you should pay by invoice or direct debit. If you use Paypal or Klarna for payment, it is important to find out in advance whether and under what conditions buyer protection is provided.

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