Steady increase in ‘dodgy’ online operators

Connecting consumers and corporates

Steady increase in ‘dodgy’ online operators

Online shopping

BEFORE you go online to buy aluminium windows, leather shoes or furniture online, or to book a company to move your household contents, best you heed the Ombudsman for Consumer Goods and Services’ warning about the dodgy operators who’ll take your money and then fail to deliver.

Ombudsman Magauta Mphahlele has gone as far as naming the companies “with the intention to warn consumers to be careful when dealing with these suppliers and to prevent further losses, given the amount of money being paid by consumers to those companies, and their refusal to either refund the money or deliver the goods. They have also failed to cooperate with the Ombud’s office.

Magauta says her office has seen a “steady increase” in online purchase complaints, relating to retailers offering goods at highly discounted prices “said to be available for a limited period”.“Consumers are quick to make payment in order to benefit from the discount only to discover later that they have been scammed when the goods or services are not delivered or are not of the quality described,” Mphahlele said.

Here is the name-and-shame list:

AF-FSL Glass Distributors: Consumers ordered aluminium doors and windows, but the goods were never delivered.

Benna Bok: Consumers ordered and paid for leather shoes and bags, but the goods were never delivered. “Despite being the subject of a recent Carte Blanche expose, Benna Bok continues to operate, taking new orders even though the complaints with our office have not been resolved. When pushed, Benna Bok claims to be busy resolving the issue but thus far has failed to resolve any of the complaints directed to our office.”

4 Cities Removers: Consumers paid the supplier to move their furniture from one address to another. The supplier collected the furniture but failed to deliver it. 4 Cities Removers is also in contravention of Section 65 of the CPA which provides that the supplier in possession of a consumer’s property must handle it with care and account for the property when required.

Milo Design: The complainants paid the supplier for furniture which never arrived. Milo Design is refusing to refund consumers, stating they have a non-refund policy.

“To compound matters, the goods that have been delivered appear to be of an inferior quality and numerous complaints in this regard have also been received.”

Appliance House: Consumers paid the supplier for electronic goods online, which the supplier undertook to deliver. The goods were never delivered, entitling the customers to a refund. The supplier has ceased all communication with our office and is no longer refunding consumers.

WHAT TO DO -The Ombud’s advice:

When shopping online, check if the supplier is registered with the CGSO – the list can be found on our website or you can call our call centre. You can also check if there are previous complaints against the company and how they have dealt with them.
Use well known and reputable online stores.

Check online reviews from previous customers on their Facebook pages or websites. Check negative reviews to establish what went wrong.

If prices seem too good to be true they probably are; proceed with caution. Read their terms and conditions carefully, especially in relation to returns and refunds.

Ensure that there are valid contact details where you can lodge a complaint or query a transaction;
Keep record of all transactions and conversations;

Check the description of the product carefully to ensure it is exactly what you need as you may incur cost if you change your mind and you want to return it;

Only pay on a secure site – look for https in the URL. And never email or text your credit card or financial information.

Watch out for offers that make big promises – even if the company offers a guarantee. Big promises are sometimes a sign of a scam, so do your homework before you give any money or information.

Look at the bottom line: are there any hidden fees that have not been properly disclosed? If there are, consider going elsewhere.