Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, the 2020 holiday shopping season will bring new challenges. While many are choosing to stay home as much as possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, online shopping is a convenient, stress-free way to shop 24/7. Consumers can research vendors, their products, and make comparisons from the comfort of their home—a luxury that shopping in-store may not provide.
Since the holidays will look a little different this year, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has put together a number of resources to protect you and your wallet during this unprecedented time.
As retailers have had to compensate for an in-person shopping decline along with changing consumer behavior, many of those retailers are making adjustments to make the online shopping experience even more enticing. From special rates, coupon codes and shopping days to early Black Friday deals, consumers no longer have to wait until after Thanksgiving to get started.
Due to the surge in online shopping this season, consumers should be mindful of potential shipping delays. Review shipping estimates before purchasing and follow the tracking details once your order ships. It’s also important to be aware of the vendor’s return/refund policy before you make your purchase. If not, you could run into restocking fees or not have the option to return at all. If you’re shopping on a site that does not have a return policy visible, it is important to consider if making the purchase is worth the risk. For additional details on how to avoid an unhappy return situation, review the corresponding consumer alert.
Some prefer not to online shop because it doesn’t necessarily provide an instant gratification moment, but there is a happy medium with click-and-collect ordering. This type of hybrid version of online shopping allows you to shop from the comfort of your home while also providing the excitement you may desire with curb-side pickup. Retailers and restaurants – both big-box and local – are providing these services as they make adjustments in the midst of a pandemic.
Local delivery services such as DoorDash, Uber and other local contractors, will ferry packages from stores, warehouses, and restaurants to consumer locations. This service industry may have fees and request tips, but can be worth the convenience of not having to leave home. It’s important to watch for hidden charges and ensure your confirmation emails match up with your credit card statement.
The rise in online shopping will also have an impact on the shipping industry and anyone could see major carriers impose fees on packages. Alternative delivery options like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), curbside, or parcel lockers are on the rise due to the ability to lessen how many people you come in contact with.
Consumers should also expect delays with shipping. Be sure to look at the vendor’s shipping policy and scheduled delivery date before placing an order. Also ensure you’re familiar with shipping deadlines for major shipping companies during the holidays.
With the convenience of online shopping comes a series of crucial tips that all shoppers must be mindful of. To shop wisely this holiday season, remember the following:
Do business with reputable vendors – Cyber attackers create malicious websites that appear legitimate. Take time to review the site, locate a phone number and physical address in case there is a problem with your transaction.
Beware of drop-shipping – A retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, the storefront purchases the items from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. This is a fast-growing trend of online middlemen who keep the difference between the wholesale and retail price, which costs you extra money. And while drop-shipping is not illegal, there is a lot of room for problems and abuse for buyers and sellers.
Make sure your information is encrypted when shopping online – You always want to ensure the URL in your web browser begins with “https:” along with locating the ‘closed or locked’ padlock icon in the browser’s search bar.
Be on high alert for emails requesting information – Legitimate businesses will not send emails to solicit information. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, don't click on the provided link, Instead, directly log onto the authentic website by typing the web address yourself.
Use a credit card – The best way to minimize potential damage is to use one single, low-limit credit card to make all of your purchases. Debit cards do not limit your liability for fraudulent charges and the money is drawn directly from your bank account. Be mindful of any credit and debit card surcharges.
Check your shopping app settings – Use apps that are transparent about what they do with your data. There is no legal limit on your liability with money stored in a shopping app. Unless otherwise stated under the terms of service, you are responsible for all charges made through a shopping app.
Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, then compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
Ultimately, it’s important to plan ahead. Online shopping allows consumers all over the world to research and purchase items in a setting that’s most convenient for them. Keep these tips in mind before you spend your hard-earned money.
To report fraud or if you have a general consumer complaint, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Team.
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form