The Wonders and Perils of Online Shopping this Christmas>

November 16th, 2012

Australians are forecast to spend $1.2 billion this Christmas, with Internet retailers looking for a bigger piece of the pie than ever before. People choose to shop on the Internet for a number of reasons, most of which are related to ease of use and product selection. The advantages of online shopping are highlighted even more during the Christmas period, with people using the Internet to avoid big crowds and access different products than those available in physical stores.

Internet shopping is not without its perils however, with people advised to be careful this holiday season. According to NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts, Fair Trading received more than 7000 complaints about online shopping in the last financial year. Many of these complaints were related to international stores, where the level of consumer protection available is not the same as Australian stores.

"When purchasing online from an overseas website, protection provided under the Australian Consumer Law may not apply and getting a refund or replacement if the goods are faulty or not what you paid for, can be very difficult," said Roberts on the Fair Trading website, adding "If you buy from an Australian website you have the same consumer rights and protections as if you had walked into a store."

The recent Click Frenzy debacle in Australia also illustrates one of the potential problems of Internet shopping, with the service not having enough infrastructure to cope with consumer demand. There is also an obvious gap in the quality of the online shopping experience, when comparing dedicated shopping websites like eBay and Amazon with smaller local retailers.

While some consumers have threatened to abandon online shopping after the Click Frenzy meltdown, it will more likely act as a wake-up call for businesses to get their online act together. "How you manage large volumes of visits to the website all at once -- that's the first thing (to learn)," said Myer chief Bernie Brookes in a statement about the inaugural online shopping event.

Internet shopping is here to stay, with more and more people learning to love the online shopping experience. While online retailers still have a long way to go to appeal to the majority of consumers, the time savings, ease of use, and product selection advantages associated with Internet shopping are only made more obvious during the busy Christmas period.