The UK loves online shopping - 45% will do Christmas on the web
As we saw from last week’s carnage the American tradition of Black Friday is now firmly entrenched in the UK. But this shopping frenzy isn’t just limited to scraps in the electronics aisles of supermarkets, online stores have also been attracting those who are after a calmer sort of bargain hunting, with big names like Amazon running week-long sales and the now-annual Cyber Monday signalling a day of deals for online buyers.
While the rioting of Black Friday shoppers grabs headlines this kind of thing is (thankfully) an isolated event, and the sad fact is that many high street stores have been finding the financial environment increasingly difficult, in no small part due to competition from the web.
A recent survey conducted by Toluna on behalf of Broadband Genie has found that 45% plan to avoid the high street and do the majority of their Christmas shopping online. And there’s little difference across age groups, with 37% of those aged 55 or over saying they’ll be sticking to the web for Christmas 2014, compared to 47% of the 18-34 bracket.
As an online poll there’ll be some bias in the results toward people who are more likely to shop online, but a Citizens Advice survey has also found that two thirds of respondents would be buying at least half their gifts online. It also noted that those in rural communities are very keen online shoppers, and have a greater awareness of their rights when purchasing from the web.
5 tips for safe online shopping
- Are you secure?
When buying anything online always make sure the checkout stage uses a secure connection. Check that the URL begins ‘https’ and look for a padlock symbol or similar in your web browser to indicate that the site is encrypted as this will prevent your card details being intercepted. A site that does not provide secure connections for payment should not be trusted.
- Be careful using public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi connections are convenient but keep in mind that the owner of the connection and other users can monitor all activity. If you need to use a Wi-Fi hotspot for some online shopping you must make sure the site is encrypted (see previous tip), or use a private VPN service to hide your connection from prying eyes.
- Buy with a credit card
Any purchase of £100-£30,000 made with a credit card is covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, a strong consumer protection law that means you can claim back money from the credit card operator. If items are faulty or the company goes bankrupt, the credit card protection will have your back.
- Use strong passwords
Whenever you need to register an account on a web site use a strong, unique password to make it difficult for thieves to guess your login or use the same details to access your information on other sites. Password manager software can store this so you don’t need to remember everything - see our guide to online security for more information.
- Monitor your bank account
With so much spending going on around Christmas it’d be easy for small fraudulent payments to slip under the radar, so keep a careful eye on your bank account. You might want to set up a new account just for online purchases and only ever keep the exactly amount of money you’re spending in there, or utilise online wallet payment systems to better control your finances and avoid money being taken directly from your account by shopping sites.