According to a survey from IMRG and Capgemini, which hoovered up data from 60 UK retail websites, Monday 8 December will be the biggest online shopping day of 2009, with sales of around £320 million. That's a lot of moolah in these tough times.

The benefits of online shopping are crystal clear: no crowds of screaming babies, knife-wielding hoodies and, you know, people. (I hate people.) You can compare prices from the comfort of your own pants, and the chances of being mugged are entirely dependent on the criminality of your own family.

But that doesn't mean you won't lose out - and we're not even talking about fraud. As our online poll shows, there are many and several gripes unique to shopping online. Here are a few of our (least) favourite:

Hidden credit card surcharges. You've committed to buying a product, and you're happy with the price you've 'agreed', but then at the last minute the retailer sticks on a couple of quid to cover the charge issued to them by your credit card company.

Here's the thing: it's an online shop, dummy. Short of stuffing cash into your optical drive bay, there is no way of paying that doesn't involve your vendor having to wear a small fee. So the only reason to leave it until the last minute before informing you, the punter, is to artificially deflate the price you're being asked to pay. It's dishonest and good stores don't do it.

Hidden and complicated delivery charges. It's the same side of a different coin. Or PayPal groat.

At PC Advisor, we always quote prices as inclusive of VAT and delivery. The best retailers do the same, and quote a flat delivery rate. They also allow you to pick up an item without having to pay anything above the quoted product price. And if you think it's okay to shell out a fortune on incomprehensible delivery charges, bear this in mind: most online retailers use the same handful of courier firms. Often, the vendor is using it to boost its margin.

A low price on a comparison site that turns out to be ex VAT. Price comparison sites are a huge business. When you're not constrained by geography, it's deeply satisfying to know, KNOW, that you've grabbed a bargain.

But some retailers are more honest than others in the prices they forward to price comparison sites. Choosing the 'lowest price' only to find it is actually going to cost you 15-, or even 17.5 percent more, is annoying. And pointless. You're not going to buy when you've been lied to, right? DON'T BUY WHEN YOU'VE BEEN LIED TO.

Finding a low price only to discover the website can't despatch for several weeks. Back in the old Web 1.0 days, retail sages used to say that online shopping would never take off because (a) people liked to handle something before they buy and (b) when you buy something, you want it right there and then.

Well, (a) turned out to be true to a certain degree, but savvy shoppers soon worked out that they could paw the merchandise in Jessops and then buy from Fred in a shed at half the price. And with the wide availability of same- and next-day delivery, (b) shouldn't be a problem, but it is.

As with several other points we're raising here, the issue is really one of openness. If a retailer tells you early in the piece that you can't have your chosen product for a few weeks, and you are happy to continue with the purchase, everyone's a winner. But when they leave it to the last minute, it's usually because the product isn't in stock, and they want to use your money to buy it in from a distributor. It's less than honest. Good sites are up front about stock levels of products.

Tempting offers such as 'free delivery' or '25% off' negated by myriad conditions and exceptions hidden in the small print. Just one more area where the letter of the law may be observed, but the spirit of customer service often isn't.

Search engines are the world's biggest shop window, and unscrupulous vendors can dress it any way they like to tempt you into the store with 'offers' that are less than they at first seem. The principle seems to be that once you've decided to buy, you're not going to be put off even by the small print.

NEXT PAGE: 5 ways to be a happy shopper

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According to a survey from IMRG and Capgemini, which hoovered up data from 60 UK retail websites, Monday 8 December will be the biggest online shopping day of 2009, with sales of around £320 million. That's a lot of moolah in these tough times.

Be a happy shopper

All of which could make you really depressed. But online shopping is still the best way to grab a bargain, you just need to have your wits about you. We asked Brian Trevaskiss, operations manager at online retailer www.MoreComputers.com, to offer some useful advice.

Here are Brian's top tips for safer shopping:

"When you've finally decided which product it is you are going to buy, see if you can find the manufacturer's part number, most good sites will display it. Search on this part number to be sure you are comparing the exact same products.

"When you click through to a site check if the site is displaying a stock count and states when the product will be dispatched. If these are not clear chances they can't supply the product at the quoted price quickly.

"Next step is to check delivery options and costs, these should be easy to find, if they are not they are probably complicated and expensive.

"Check for credit card surcharges - not easy as most sites that apply them don't tell you until you've nearly finished filling in all your order details.

"Only when you have all this information are you comparing prices like for like. But don't go on price alone you may have a delivery problem or be unlucky and get a faulty product, check the website's returns procedure is clear.

"Then take a look for positive feedback from previous customers, you don't want to just go for the lowest price and be disappointed in the service you receive, when a few pounds more can get you a stress-free experience.

"Finally the old adage of the internet is true ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true'."

So there you have it. You don't need to run the hoodie gauntlet to find a festive bargain. Happy shopping.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks - and to take advantage of PC Advisor's unique, independent Broadband Speed Tester