Last updated 25 May 2016
The terms and conditions of the sale of goods and services over the internet are usually displayed before the agreement is made. Often pressing ‘I agree’ will result in entering into a contract.
It is often difficult to work out where the contract was made when something is purchased online. This is important if the consumer wants to take legal action against the seller, as legal action can only be commenced in the place where the contract is made or a place specified by the contract.
If goods are purchased from Australian businesses, the Australian Consumer Law and any law of the relevant state or territory where the contract is made apply.
If overseas goods are purchased, warranties will not apply, and goods may not meet Australian product safety standards. Even if the goods come from countries with strong consumer protection laws, it will be difficult to enforce these if the seller does not comply with the law.
There is no specific legal protection given to purchases made from auction sites (e.g. ebay) that operate over the internet.
If a credit card or some other payment method is used (e.g. paypal), it may be possible to cancel the payment to a seller if they fail to arrive. If there is a dispute, the consumer may be able to access an alternative dispute resolution scheme.
If goods are paid for in cash, by a debit card or by direct transfer from a savings or cheque account, these protections are generally not available unless the auction site itself guarantees receipt of the goods.