Sunday February 17, 2013
E-shopping and deal site woes on the rise
By LISA GOH
PETALING JAYA: If a deal sounds too good to be true, chances are it is just that as many e-shoppers have discovered.
In only four months, the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) received about 400 complaints over deal sites that have sprouted over the last year or so.
According to the centre's deputy director, K. Ravin, about 61% of the complaints, filed between September and December last year, were about product quality.
Other complaints included misleading information and problems of delivery and refunds.
Ravin said: “Many have found the products they bought to be not of the quality advertised. Some have also complained that the products turned out to be counterfeit.”
Human resources executive Ng Hui Xin, 29, is one of those who had a bad experience with a deal site.
“I bought a shoe organiser for my car boot from one of these sites. For RM39, I thought it was a really good deal.
“I didn't think the purchase would be a problem since it was just an organiser. But when I received it, I knew it was a poorly made product. The zipper broke the moment I tried to unzip it,” she said.
Ng e-mailed the deal site and her e-mail was forwarded to the product supplier, but she never received a reply.
“I e-mailed the deal site a few more times after that but they didn't bother replying, so I eventually gave up.
“This is not my first purchase but it is probably going to be my last on this particular deal site,” she said.
Ravin said that NCCC had received many complaints of misleading information on prices, especially for beauty and spa packages.
“For example, a facial package originally priced at RM2,000 is being offered at RM150. It sounds really good but when you get there, there are other things you need to pay for before you can get the package at RM150. In the end, the customer may still have to fork out close to RM2,000,” he added.
With the growing popularity of e-shopping and deal sites, people need to be aware of their rights under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, said lawyer Sankara Nair.
“It does not matter whether the transaction took place over the Internet or directly. The effect is the same,” he said.
Section 10(1)(a) of the Consumer Protection Act states: “No person shall make a false or misleading representation that the goods are of a particular kind, standard, quality, grade, quantity, composition, style or model.”
The penalties for contravening this legal provision are stiff corporate entities can be fined up to RM250,000 for a first offence and up to RM500,000 for subsequent offences.
Individuals can be fined not more than RM100,000 or jailed up to three years, or both, for a first offence. They can be fined not more than RM250,000, jailed up to six years, or both, for subsequent offences.
“In all these cases (where the deals are not as promised), the liable party is the site, which cannot hide behind the fine print or exclusion clause,” said Sankara.
“The sites are in the best position to know if they are getting their goods from a supplier of original products. It is incumbent upon them and they cannot just absolve themselves of responsibility.”