A quick sift through the offers on a price comparison app and it is easy to see which websites have what appear to be the cheapest deals on electronics and other goods. Many of the best offers come from abroad, particularly Asia, and the savings look generous.
Take the newly launched Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. Originally on sale for £160, they cost as little as £105.99 from eGlobal Central, £126.30 at MyTrendyPhone and £129.90 from Alternate when the Observer checked.
But how genuine are these deals and how wary should consumers be of sites like these?
Some experts believe there are ways to take advantage of discount sites, while minimising the risk of getting stung. “Reviews are essential and often include photos from previous buyers which gives you an insight into the quality of the product,” says James Allum, of digital payments platform Payoneer. “With careful research, people will find a great range of quality products at an amazingly low price.”
However, the web is littered with fake reviews. Search for the zero or one-star ones and see what they say – they won’t have been paid for by the site. Be wary of a string of four- and five-star reviews, especially if written in tortured English in case they are from some paid-for review ‘factory’
Peter Janes, chief executive of payment solution Shieldpay, warns that cut-price websites are “often too good to be true”, while ProPrivacy’s Attila Tomaschek says counterfeiters are becoming increasingly skilful at producing tech products that appear to be legitimate but are not.
“Consumers should be extremely sceptical of any piece of tech, especially any particularly popular item, that is priced significantly lower than the suggested retail price,” he warns.
Crucially, consumers should make sure they understand their rights before making a purchase. “If you buy online from a seller in the UK or EU, the Consumer Contracts Regulations mean you can cancel the order until 14 days after you receive the goods – unless they’re perishables or personalised – and you then have 14 days to send them back, even if it’s just because you’ve changed your mind,” says MoneySavingExpert’s Anthony Hill.
However, it is never straightforward enforcing your rights on businesses that do not have a bricks-and-mortar presence in your own country, and is nearly impossible outside the EU. Buyers may find they have no legal right to return an item, even if it is faulty, which can cause a major headache for anyone wanting their money back.
Even though some websites have their own return policies, they are not the law and
small print can be murky. “Not every seller is equal – even within one website, there can be hundreds of different shops which have different rules and wildly different products,” explains Dan Plant, consumer expert at hotukdeals.com. “For instance, some items ship from European warehouses, and you get pretty much the same protections as buying from a UK shop….