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What you need to know about online group buying

(NC) Have you heard about group buying? Some websites offer deals to save money on a wide range of goods and services like dining out, electronics or travelling.

Here is how it works: retailers sign up to sell their products or services on these group buying websites and after a certain number of people buy in, the deals are activated. If there aren't enough people who are interested, the deals are taken down and no financial transaction takes place.

Before you sign up, here are some tips to consider:

• Read the fine print, especially the terms and conditions and return policy.

• Understand exactly what it is you're buying.

• Where is it? Take note of the website and make sure the deal is available in your area.

• Check for an expiration date. Deals are usually for a limited time so pay attention to when the deals end.

• Check for a redemption date. You may not be able to redeem your deal at certain times of day or days of the week.

• Look for fees. You may be required to pay additional fees at the location where you redeem your deal, like taxes or delivery charges. Also, the location may only take cash or require that everything is prepaid via your group buying site.

• Pay attention to the details around how deals are cancelled. If the deal is taken down after you have already provided your financial information, will the company stop the transaction, or will you need to get a refund?

The Canadian Consumer Handbook offers an entire section dedicated to group buying The goal of the handbook is to help consumers make informed choices and in the case of group buying, it explains why these websites exist and how to protect yourself. The Handbook was developed by the Consumer Measures Committee — a partnership of your federal, provincial and territorial governments.

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