WITH the advent of the Internet, shopping around for bargains has become as easy as the click of a mouse.
But consumers need to be careful because there are instances when this convenience can cause more harm than good.
One such example is the increasing number of South Africans purchasing "discounted" goods - including financial policies such as life insurance online.
Matsidiso Tshidiso has been battling to recover R74000 he paid to Extreme Auto Investments for a second-hand vehicle he wanted to buy from them.
They had advertised a white Chev Aveo on their Internet website, said Tshidiso.
He called them to enquire about its status and purchase amount as he wanted to buy one for his wife.
He was told it had some small damage.
"I was supposed to pay a holding deposit but decided to pay the full amount with the agreement that if I was unhappy with the condition of the car I would withdraw my offer to buy and get my money back."
Two days later I went to view the car and discovered that its whole left side had been repainted and the bumper was not in line, he said.
"One could easily tell that it had been involved in an accident."
He decided not to take the car and requested to be refunded.
"I did not sign any document, there is nothing that binds me to them, but they are holding on to my money,
"A Derick Neuwadt told me he was waiting for the owner to refund me but that they didn't want me to talk to him."
Consumer Line took up his complaint with Neuwadt who said Tshidiso would be refunded two weeks ago but he wasn't.
He then said the owner of Extreme Auto investment, Nico Coetzee, was in Cape Town - making it impossible for him to refund Tsidiso.
Coetzee has now undertaken to refund Tshidiso by tomorrow.
lMike Jackson, chief executive of Professional Provident Society Insurance, says there is also an increased trend in consumers purchasing life insurance online.
Jackson said consumers need to be empowered and be aware of the risks of this type of "take-away" financial offerings.
"While this might be convenient and sometimes appear cheaper, ensuring that you have the correct type of coverage is not as simple or free of risk as ordering groceries."
He said many consumers were being taken advantage of by being persuaded to buy discounted products that do not meet their needs.
"Many consumers are under the impression that all life insurance policies are alike, if not identical.
"Value is as important as price when deciding on one's life insurance policy and each company's product has subtle but major differences," he said.