Cyber Monday: A very modern kind of madness

It took a few years for the concept to cross the Atlantic, but this year Irish shoppers are set to spend close to €50m online in just 24 hours

According to Forbes, today looks set to be the largest online shopping day in history in the US – with sales expected to hit $3.36bn, up almost 10 per cent on 2015. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty

According to Forbes, today looks set to be the largest online shopping day in history in the US – with sales expected to hit $3.36bn, up almost 10 per cent on 2015. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty

 

Where did all this madness come from?

There has been much talk about Cyber Monday in recent weeks. It is an almost accidental invention and one that first made its presence felt in a 2005 press release for a website, shop.org.

“While traditional retailers will be monitoring store traffic and sales on Black Friday, online retailers have set their sights on something different: Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is quickly becoming one of the biggest online shopping days of the year,” the release started. And so an idea was born.

It took a couple of years for the notion to cross the Atlantic, and it wasn’t until November 2007 that Cyber Monday got its first mention in this newspaper.

According to Forbes magazine, today looks set to be the largest online shopping day in history in the US – with sales expected to hit $3.36 billion, up almost 10 per cent on last year. And Irish shoppers are set to spend close to €50 million online in just 24 hours.

Where are the bargains?

All the big retailers like to keep their Cyber Monday deals under wraps. We know that Amazon will be running all manner of “flash sales” throughout the day, while Argos has been offering discounts online for days now and will be continuing throughout today. There’s also PC World, Arnotts, BTs, Asos and all the rest. Top tip: google “Cyber Monday” and “promo code” and see how you get on. We particularly liked the All Saints promise of 30 per cent off everything for people who use the promo code “CYBER”.

Know your rights

Most of us do some shopping online to save money, and doing so actually gives us more rights than if we were to buy from a traditional retailer, thanks to a Consumer Rights Directive that came into force across the EU in 2014.

If you buy something online and it is faulty, you have exactly the same rights as if you bought it in a shop.

Under the directive, an online seller must give you specific information, including the price, any taxes that may fall due, delivery costs and details of what to do if you change your mind.

You also have a cooling-off period of at least 14 days, starting from the date you receive the order. Before the end of the 14 days, an order can be cancelled and the item returned.

Crucially, during this cooling-off period you can return the item for any reason. But if you cancel the order because you change your mind, you may have to pay for the cost of returning it.

You also have extra rights if your goods are not delivered on time. Generally speaking, online retailers have 30 days to get your stuff to you unless you agree otherwise. It is important to remember, however, that these rights only apply to transactions that happen within the EU.

If you buy a pair of trainers from Dan’s Dodgy Deals in Hong Kong you can expect your rights to be significantly diminished.

And know the rights you don’t have

Ahead of Cyber Monday, the European Consumer Centre surveyed more than 500 shoppers and found that 57 per cent were unsure of their consumer rights and wrongly believed that if a product develops a fault within two months of purchase, they are entitled to a full refund.

Meanwhile, 43 per cent correctly answered that it is only when no repair or replacement is offered within a reasonable time, or without causing significant inconvenience, that a consumer can seek a reduction in price or a full refund.

Consumers fared better when asked if traders were obliged to give their full contact details on their website, including geographical address.

Of the 528 people surveyed, 66 per cent said consumers had the right to clear information when shopping online – including full contact details.

However, 33 per cent wrongly believed that traders did not have to give full contact details, including a postal address.

“It is clear from helping consumers on a daily basis that more awareness is needed about EU consumer rights when shopping online, including the right to cancel the contract if you change your mind and the right to a refund if the product purchased is not delivered within the time required,” says European Consumer Centre spokeswoman Martina Nee.

She says people would be tempted to buy first and think later, “but we would urge consumers to learn more about their consumer rights in case things go wrong, do thorough research about not just the product or service but also the trader, use a secure payment method and read the small print, paying particular attention to the refund, return, and cancellation policies”.

The dangers you face

If you like a bit of alarmism, you will be delighted to hear that cyber criminals are expected to steal almost £10 million from bank accounts in the UK on Monday alone, according to comparethemarket.com.

There are no figures for the Republic but, if we were to extrapolate from the UK numbers – as much as €1 million could go missing on Monday. But even though cyber criminals are getting cleverer with each passing year, it is not hard to stay ahead of them.

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

So, if you find a brand new iPhone selling for €50 – it is either a fake or it will never arrive.

Beware of all emails offering amazing bargains with a single click. You might be saving time by clicking on links in an email, but it could cost you a fortune because criminals are very good at dressing up bogus websites to look like the real deal.

Instead of mindlessly following links, type an online retailer’s address into your browser. It might take you three seconds longer, but better safe than sorry.

Be very suspicious of emails encouraging you to fill out a form or provide any personal information. Be even warier of any emails or texts warning you of suspicious activity regarding your online accounts .

Use more complex passwords made up of a mixture of numbers, symbols, and letters in upper and lower case.

Always look out for the padlock icon at the bottom of the browser frame when making a payment online.

This symbol indicates that the website you are visiting uses encryption to protect you, which will make it much harder for cyber criminals to steal personal information.

Don’t let a website remember your credit card details. It might be grand . . . but it might not be. It is always better to be safe than sorry. And speaking of which, take care when using shared computers or even open wifi hot spots when making payments online. Canny hackers can capture your account information and log-in details and steal your money.

The website is anti-Irish

When it comes to online annoyances there are few things worse than searching diligently for hours for the best bargains and loading them into your online shopping trolley, only to realise when you get to the virtual checkout that the UK-based retailer where you found all the amazing deals doesn’t want your money because you live in the Republic of Ireland and, for whatever reason, it doesn’t want to deliver here.

There was a time when we had no choice but to accept that. But now is not that time.

Parcel Motel (parcelmotel.com) allows you to do your shopping on whatever UK-based site you like. Your order is shipped to Parcel Motel’s Northern Irish address, after which it will deliver to one of its many drop-off points around the country, or alternatively to your home.

If you order something from an online retailer and it charges €5 for delivery, Parcel Motel will charge you €3.95 to place it in your chosen Parcel Motel – increasing the total delivery charge to €8.95. But many UK sites offer free UK delivery, so you might only have to pay the €3.95 Parcel Motel charge. If you want the parcel delivered directly to your home or place of work, prices for packages that weigh up to 10g will start at €7.95.

Parcel Wizard (dpdparcelwizard.ie) offers shoppers in the Republic an almost identical virtual UK address service at a price of €3.85. Once the parcel is received at its virtual address location, it is readdressed to your home address or another preferred address. The company will charge Irish consumers €3.85 for this service, but will provide three free “trips” to shoppers between now and December 31st, as part of its launch offering.

The new kid on the block is Address Pal (addresspal.anpost.ie), which is operated by An Post. It allows packages of up to 20kg to be delivered to the post office of your choice at a price of €3.50.

Is the online deal always a good deal?

Online shopping is generally good for consumers as it allows them to shop around in search of a bargain.

But it is not without its downsides, and if we were to move all our shopping online and offshore, the consequences for Irish retailers and the Irish economy would be devastating.

In 2012, electronics retailer Peats closed after 80 years, blaming the effects of the recession and the impact of online retailers. Waterstones and Hughes & Hughes have both gone the same way as competition from Amazon made it hard to survive.

Local shops employ local people who use local services and pay tax – both on wages and on profits. When we shop with giant multinationals based elsewhere, all that employment and tax disappears.

While the big players in retailing will inevitably be popular with shoppers on Monday, keeping it local is worth considering.

The choice might be slightly more limited but by buying Irish you support local producers, keep money in the local economy and boost your feel-good levels into the bargain. The delivery times are generally shorter, too, so you can leave it later to buy gifts and there are fewer additional costs.

Taxes can add well in excess of the list price if a product is sourced from the US or Asia – while returns are also easier and cheaper, because many Irish websites offer free delivery, something that can make a big difference for bulkier presents.

Taxing matters

The good people in Revenue sent us a mail last week that is worth reproducing in full.

“Whether your purchases originate outside the EU, or in another EU member state, online shopping can have tax and duty implications, and you may be liable for tax and duty on your online purchases when your goods arrive.

“All goods from non-EU member states are liable to tax and duty on arrival here. Last year, Revenue officers in postal depots nationwide applied charges to more than 70,000 parcels, adding an average €33 in tax and duty per parcel.

“Alcohol or tobacco products bought online or by mail order are liable to tax and duty on arrival in the State, whether they originate in another EU member state or outside the EU.

“A case of wine for sale online at €60 might look like a great deal. However, if the price is low, tax and duty have probably not been paid and Revenue may seize the wine on arrival. You are liable for the tax and duty.

“Excise duty and VAT on an average case of 12 bottles of wine originating in another EU country will add more than €60, bringing the price you actually pay to over €120.

“The counterfeit trade operates in the shadow economy evading tax, translating into lost revenue for legitimate businesses and their employees, loss of jobs, and often funding organised criminal gangs.

“There are no health and safety standards in the counterfeit business, so these fake products are often unsafe, or even dangerous.

“Revenue seizes counterfeit goods at import or export. This means that you will lose your goods and your money, and it’s very unlikely that a seller who trades in fake goods will refund your loss.”

Fair enough.

Five Irish sites to keep in mind

They may or may not be going mad with all the Cyber Monday business but, even if they are not, these five sites you may not have heard of are definitely worth a look.

myshiningarmour.com: This Kilkenny-based website has all manner of Christmas gifts handily categorised by age and gender. There are clothes, jewellery, lighting, storage and sunglasses – and that’s just for starters.

makersandbrothers.com: Created by brothers Jonathan and Mark Legge, who say: “From individual studios to bigger workshops, we carefully choose makers for being outstanding in their craft and more. Some are well-established, leading their field, while others are just emerging and show great promise. All are unwavering in their dedication to a chosen discipline.”

aprilandthebear.com: With a physical presence in Portobello, Dublin, this “lifestyle and interiors webstore” is – as they say themselves – “filled to the brim with beautifully eclectic homewares, exclusive art prints, edgy jewellery and thoughtful gifts”. It is pretty impressive, all right.

kennys.ie: Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway was one of the first retailers in Ireland to embrace the online marketplace and it has a digital footprint that goes all the way back to the mid-1990s. It is still a wonderful website and pleasingly far from all the maddening, garishly designed tech- obsessed websites in the world. The collection is immense and they deliver for free.

manofaranfudge.ie: We have long had a soft spot for these fudge makers, and one of its many flavours was one of the first products to get a five-star review in this page’s Value for Money section. Back then you could only get the wonderful products in market stalls and the like. We were delighted to happen upon the website last week. If you, or someone you know, is a fan of fudge, it is definitely worth a visit.

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