Consumers Denied Refund; Forced to Choose Other Products

01/06/2021 12:15

With the current COVID-19 outbreak upending the consumer landscape – pushing them further towards online shopping, local online businesses have been found displaying shoddy practices – causing inconvenience and additional financial burden to consumers. The Consumer Council of Fiji has received complaints against local online businesses who are failing to supply ordered goods despite receiving full payments.  

In recent cases lodged at the Council, consumers had ordered and paid for essentials such as groceries using a local online platform – only to be informed that those items were not in stock. Consumers seeking refund were asked to purchase something else of equivalent value or similar products of different brands.

Having received such unscrupulous nature of complaints in the middle of a pandemic, Ms Seema Shandil, the Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Council said, “the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting confinement and other health measures has further shifted consumer demand towards online shopping. Whilst we commend businesses for responding to this demand by providing digital shopping platforms to consumers, they must not compromise the good business practices and the rights of Fijian consumers”.

While acknowledging minor disruptions to supply chains, Ms. Shandil further elaborated that businesses must only advertise and accept payments for products in stock and not force consumers to choose alternative products. Businesses do not have the right to dictate what consumers purchase.

The Council is further stressing that businesses have an obligation to deliver products and services which consumers have paid for and failure to do this is not only upright unethical – but illegal as well. It is very simple, if you take payments or deposits from consumers for supply of good or services, you must deliver. It is understandable that there may be anticipated delays at times due to influx of orders, hence businesses should in such instance provide timely disclosures to consumers.

Consumers are also being reminded to be wary of individuals on social media and also those going around offering business opportunities and other get rich quick schemes. Such scams are common in times of crises as people are vulnerable and looking for alternative ways to make money. 

Consumers facing similar issues are encouraged to call the Consumer Council of Fiji on the national toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.