The ecommerce revolution has transformed the way modern economy works, creating new business models and forever changing the way people shop.
Today, more people prefer using the internet to order the things they need or want rather than going to shopping malls, local street shops, or other traditional retail channels.
The ability to compare vendors, find great deals, save time and money, and order products and services from the comfort of one’s home has added a lot of convenience to everyday life.
The benefits of online shopping for the average consumer are clear and powerful, but what about the risks?
Many feel that fine print issues are one of the evils internet shoppers encounter on a daily basis.
This troublesome area is one of the oldest and most effective marketing tactics in existence, which is often the source of customer disappointment, anger, and frustration.
But what exactly is this notorious fine print?
It’s usually inconspicuous details or conditions that appear some place on a commercial website, especially terms that that could be considered disadvantageous or may prove unfavorable.
Often, this information is not included in the main body of the content and is presented in smaller letters compared to the rest of the text on the page, perhaps in the hope that the reader will not notice it.
The ‘fine print’ is extremely important!
It often contains exclusions, limitations, or other vital information that the vendor does not want the shopper to actually see but that is essential for them to know.
The purpose of this section is to protect the company’s interests, supposedly in a legal way, and in some cases, to hide certain fees, oppressive terms, or other key information and make the consumer believe that the offer is better than it might actually be.
So what can you do in practical terms in order to avoid being misled or even becoming a victim to a scam?
Simply read the fine print wherever it appears: website terms and conditions, product descriptions, order pages, money-back guarantees, return and cancellation policies, service contracts, free offers, etc.
Protect yourself from unnecessary aggravation, financial losses, and from taking legal action by reading all the terms, disclosures, and disclaimers as thoroughly as possible – even when they’re hidden or buried deep within the website.
If you notice an asterisk (or several of them) in the main body of the offer’s text, do not ignore it – ever.
It means there’s some fine print you need to find and read, which may include critical information that you need to explore and consider before placing an order and signing the virtual dotted line.
In many cases, that’s where the problematic clauses and the intentional legal loopholes (that were crafted by the company’s seasoned legal experts) are cleverly masked.
If you have doubts about a certain online purchase, consider consulting with a consumer-protection attorney, who can review the given website’s terms and advise you regarding possible risks.