As you've probably realised from various blog posts, I'm rather careful about security. But I buy stuff from people in far-away countries, and I really don't know who they are. So far, I've been OK.
It starts off with a credit card. Credit cards have a particular property that debit cards don't have. In UK law, even if the vendor or auction site won 't give you a refund, the credit card company must, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This covers purchases from £100 to £30,000. So if you bought something for £99, this won't help you - in theory. In practice, your card company might well do the refund, because they can claw it back from the vendor.
So I took out a credit card from a well-known shop, and put a limit on it. That's easy to do; supermarkets are very keen to give out credit cards. I mostly use it to buy diesel for the Freelander. And I will *not* use it at the pump, that's far too dangerous. I use it in the "kiosk".
Then I opened a Paypal account; again, easy to do. And I gave that credit card as the source of funds.
Paypal also have a refund policy, they call it "Buyer Protection". This covers any purchase you made using Paypal, but you must open your case within 45 days of the date you make the payment. So if you have a problem, remember that timing - after 45 days, you're not able to claim.
I buy things using either Amazon or Ebay; mostly Ebay. There are other auction sites, and I don't know anything about them (with one exception, which I'll cover later), because my feeling is that if a vendor puts an item anywhere, they'll put it on Ebay, because Ebay is BIG. On Ebay, I pay via Paypal; on Amazon I use the card explained above.
Ebay also has a refund policy. To use it, you have to make a claim within 30 days of the actual or estimated return date.
So here's my procedure. If I receive goods that are faulty, I don't give Ebay feedback just yet, but I contact the vendor. Problems I've had are:
- I bought a pair of arm coverings that were "one size fits all", that were actually "one size fits very skinny girl". I complained to them, I got a full refund.
- I bought five cables, and only one arrived. I emailed the vendor, they sent the other four.
Problems I haven't complained about, are:
- I bought several wrist supports. ALl of them arrived, but one was useless and two of the others weren't much good. One was OK and one was good. I didn't complain because A) it was only a pound or so each and B) the products were as shown.
- I bought a mouse mat with gel wrist support. It isn't much good, but it only cost a pound, and I am actually using it.
So my experience is that vendors do make mistakes, but are keen to rectify them. And some goods are inadequate, but when I explain why, I get a refund.
I haven't needed to complain to Ebay, but it's nice to know that I can if necessary, and it's an incentive on the vendor to make things right. If Ebay doesn't help, I can always complain to Paypal, or the card company.
The other main place I buy from is Amazon. From Amazon, it's mostly books that I buy, and there's not much can go wrong with a book. Occasionally, I've bought a second copy of a book, but that's my fault. I also buy other things from Amazon - that's where I buy my Hitec boots, for example. Once I bought a book that had half the pages missing - some kind of binding error at the printers. I should have complained, but I didn't.
I've also looked at things from Alibaba, which is a Chinese auction site. It is, indeed, an Aladdin's Cave, but you often don't see the prices (you have to ask each supplier) and often there's a large minimum quantity. There'a also Aliexpress, which is more aimed at consumers. I bought something from them once, but I'd only use them if Ebay and Amazon didn't have what I want.
I buy quite a lot from Hobbyking. They sell radio-control stuff. From them, I get my bike batteries, because they're a lot cheaper than any alternative I've found, and they are reliable. Once, they shipped me an order that was completely different from what I orderd (I'm guessing they got two orders mixed up). But they sorted it out, and I got what I'd paid for. Lipo batteries from Hobbyking are about half the price of those on Aliexpress.
I bought the bike motor that I currently use direct from the factory, Xiong-da. That was before anyone was importing them, and I wanted that one because it is dual-speed. When I'm on rough ground, or steeply uphill, I use the lower gear which pulls the bike a long like it's being winched. On tarmac, I go into high gear, and it's as if I just lit the afterburner.
So, in summary, I'd say that buying things from auction sites is pretty safe - I've never needed the additional precautions I take.