Language selection


Online shopping

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Online shopping and auctions are quick and convenient ways to make purchases, but they can also expose you to fraud unless you know how to protect yourself.

Unlike in-person shopping, which gives you an idea of the store and its staff, online shopping and auctions offer fewer clues as to whether the site or seller is trustworthy.

Before you confirm your online purchase or make a bid, know how to protect yourself.

On this page

Finding legitimate online merchants

Before making online purchases, make sure you are dealing with reliable, legitimate online merchants.

Check for the online vendor's:

Never deal with online merchants that do not post a privacy policy. For many online merchants, your personal information and data are as important as your money. Make sure you know why vendors are asking for your information, and how they intend to use it. If you aren't comfortable with their information and data collection practises, do not deal with them.

Canadian companies are subject to privacy laws. For more information, visit the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's website.

Checking online product information

Reliable online merchants should provide detailed and accurate information about their products and services to help you make an informed buying decision.

That information includes:

Remember to save or print this product information. Should you buy the item and be dissatisfied with the transaction, product or service, you will need this information when making a complaint.

Entering an online purchase contract

You enter into a contract when you choose to buy a product online. Any reputable vendor will provide the terms of this contract on its website. Read them and keep a copy for your reference.

Make sure the online merchant provides:

Making international online purchases

Buying online from other countries can be riskier because consumer protection laws and standards may not be the same as those in Canada. Resolving issues may be difficult if something goes wrong.

Here are some things you can do before you buy from another country:

If you have a problem with a foreign online vendor, consider reporting the incident to This reporting service, run by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), helps authorities to spot trends and combat fraud.

Recognizing potential online transaction scams

To protect yourself and your financial information, be aware of common tricks and scams that disreputable online sellers, or fraudsters, may use.

Consider walking away from a potential transaction if the online vendor:

Find more information on the risks of shopping and online auctions page.

Protecting yourself from online auctions and bidding scams

When you buy from a private individual online, consumer protection laws may not protect you.

Learn how you can protect yourself from online auctions scams.

Online safety resources

For additional resources to help you and your family protect yourselves when shopping online, visit:

A collection of federal, provincial and territorial flags that symbolically represent a collaboration between governments on consumer issues.

Trusted consumer information

Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.

Date modified: