If you are planning to buy online and have not used eBay before, it can be a daunting experience and can leave you open to fraudsters and scams.
Like any store, you need to be careful about to whom you give your personal details and what you are actually buying.
The biggest problem for eBay shoppers is that you are not covered by the same consumer rules that protect you when you are buying from a High Street store, or indeed another online trader.
Neither the Sale of Goods Act - which says everything you buy should be fit for its purpose, as it was described, of satisfactory quality and able to be returned if faulty - nor Distance Selling Regulations, which entitle you to send back something you bought online if it is not what you expected, apply for eBay.
This is because it is essentially the same as buying from a car or antiques auction, where the principle of Buyer Beware applies.
However, eBay has put in place systems to ensure that customers get what they expected to pay for and to try to prevent online fraud from taking place.
The best and safest way of paying for goods on eBay is to use PayPal. This is an established company that passes on your payment to the seller.
It has a secure website where you register your personal information, including bank card details. It will not pass on any of this information to anyone else, and it is held in a secure database.
Never give out your credit card details directly to a seller unless they have a secure website (look for a padlock in the corner of your screen) and avoid sending money directly to eBay sellers, particularly if they want you to do it through a money transfer agency such as Western Union. This is because you will never really know where you are sending the money to and it will be harder to trace.
Likewise, if your order is being posted, never agree to have it sent to a depot - get it delivered to your home or office.
Always research the person or company that is selling an item. You can do this by looking at their seller's details, which will have a history of what they have sold and give ratings for how reliable buyers have found them.
Be sure about what you are buying. If you have any additional questions, or want to see different pictures of the item, then ask the seller directly.
If there are problems, then eBay and PayPal both offer a complaints system. Both of these encourage you to take up your complaint directly with the seller, but failing this eBay will give you up to £150 back if it can be proved that you did not receive goods you bought.
PayPal will cover you for up to £500 if the order was covered by the PayPal buyer protection shield, a little logo that appears next to the bidding price of items for sale.
It runs a 'Resolution Centre', where complaints about products that were never received, or different to the advertisement, are investigated.
For items costing more than £500, it is probably worth finding an alternative way of buying them and using a credit card. It may end up being slightly more expensive, but you will have the safety of two consumer acts and the protection offered to you by the credit card provider.
Top tips for eBay shopping
• Only use a protected computer.This will be a machine with up-to-date anti-virus software.
• Keep all your e-mails from the transaction.
• Use PayPal.
• Check the buying and selling history of the seller.
• Only give card details on a secure site. These should have https in the web address at the top of the page, and a picture of a little closed padlock at the bottom.