This festive season will mark the biggest online spending spree in history with an estimated £3.32bn set to be lavished on gifts and presents, according to the Royal Mail which expects to deliver around 40 million packages.

It isn't exactly groundbreaking news that internet sales are predicted to pick up this Christmas, not least because of the rise in the number of people with internet access and the proliferation of online shopping portals, however forecast figures are exceptionally high — almost double those recorded last year.

Research by the Royal Mail revealed around £15bn has been spent online throughout 2003, compared to £7.5bn last year. The company delivered around 20 million packages over the 2003 festive season, a figure is expected to rise to 40 million this December.

"The £3bn e-Christmas is certainly testament to the fact that many consumers have overcome their initial fears about security and the ability to deliver," said Ross Drake, head of goods distribution at the Royal Mail.

The demographics of home shoppers have also changed significantly, with women now making up half of the 12 million regular online shoppers. But despite this men are still the biggest spenders online, shelling out an average of £871 each a year; in comparison, women spend £705 apiece.

The most popular products purchased online are still CDs, videos, tapes and books but larger electrical goods have seen a four percent rise in sales.

As in the real-world when shopping online you have the right to:
— clear information about the goods and services offered before you buy;
— written conformation of this information after you have made the purchase;
— a 'cooling off' period, during which goods can be cancelled and refunded without reason;
— a full refund if the goods or services are not provided by the date you agreed or within 30 days of placing the order.