Online Shopping – A Comfort or a Risk?

December 29, 2016

Advertisements of products online, especially on social media, often lure people. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly being used by retailers as a way to easily reach out to their customers.

However, it should always be the responsibility of the consumers to demand for the actual photo of the products and further details to make informed decision to purchase the items. Consumers must check to see if the company they are intending to buy from has an account. In the event, the company has an account then the consumers should check for reviews to see feedback from the consumers who may have used its services. Often customers post feedback about their experiences, which may include both good and the bad experiences.

Lots of people get lured into flashy advertising and do not think well before they finalize their purchase. You need to take out some time to do thorough research on what you intend to buy. Generally, consumers tend to believe in what is shown to them online. They are not able to make a good judgment, particularly, when they are buying online. This is due to the fact that they are unable to try, touch, feel, and see the products.
There might be instances where you might have purchased a particular product online and received something similar, but not to what you had seen as it was advertised.
Over the years, the Consumer Council of Fiji has received complaints in regards to online shopping.

In one case, the complainant, purchased an Indian outfit from an online seller, who operated an Indian Wear Business via Facebook. The complainant was after a nice Indian outfit which she anticipated to wear during one of her wedding events. The outfit that she chose online was sent to her after she made some cash deposit of $220 in the trader’s bank account. Her excitement turned into disappointment after she received an outfit which was way different from what she saw online. The material was puffy making the outfit to look untidy and the designs were much different from what was advertised online.

The Complainant lodged a formal complaint to the Council, which discovered that the outfit that was supplied to the complainant was indeed different from what was actually advertised and what the complainant has paid for. However, the boutique owner was quite adamant that the outfit delivered to the complainant was the same one that was advertised on Facebook. After rounds of discussion, the respondent ultimately agreed to refund the money paid by the complainant. Consumers are reminded once again that they have the right to reject goods if it does not match the product they intended to purchase.

Section 77 (1) (a) of the Commerce Commission Decree 2010 stipulates: “A person shall not, in trade or commerce, in connexion with the supply or possible supply of goods or services or in connexion with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of goods and services falsely represent that goods are of a particular standard, quality, grade, composition, style or model or have had a particular history or particular previous use which they do not have.”

Section 83 (1) of the Decree states: “A person shall not, engage in conduct that is liable to mislead the public as to the nature, the manufacturing process, the characteristics, the suitability for their purpose or the quantity or any goods”. This means that a trader is required to supply the goods as represented to the consumer and for which the consumer has paid an agreed amount.

It is your responsibility to inspect the goods before purchasing. You must get more information about the product you are purchasing, research and compare products or services before you purchase them. You should always check the credential of the seller and ensure getting what you pay for.

Moreover, if you receive goods you did not ask for, you do not have to accept or pay for them. You should always check for your contracts and agreements with the seller. This must be clear and comprehensive for your understanding.

If you know you did not get what you had paid for, you may lodge your complaints on the Council’s National Consumer Helpline toll free number 155 or visit any of our Suva, Lautoka or Labasa offices.