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The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) today issued a warning to consumers to exercise caution when transacting with Wiegenkind Boutique, an online shop offering baby clothing.
This follows an increase in the number of complaints against the supplier and lack of cooperation with the office in resolving the disputes.
Over the past four months, 38 consumers have lodged complaints with the Ombud against Wiegenkind. According to the complainants, the boutique either fails to deliver goods or delivers wrong items and incorrect sizes. Based on these complaints, it is clear that Wiegekind is engaging in classic bait marketing, whereby the online shop advertises products as being available, knowing very well that they do not have sufficient stock. As soon as payment is made, consumers are told that the goods are out of stock, and the promised refunds either never materialise, or there is an inordinate and unreasonable delay in refunding customers.
Of the 38 formal complaints lodged against Wiegenkind, only one has been successfully resolved by the supplier. The Ombud has since reported ten cases against Wiegekind to the National Consumer Commission for non-cooperation. 27 cases are still awaiting the Wiegekind’s response.
“Taking money from consumers and then failing to deliver the agreed goods and services is a contravention of section 19 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which governs suppliers’ obligations in terms of the delivery of goods or services, and their responsibility in the event they are unable to deliver,” said Ms Magauta Mphahlele, Ombud for the Consumer Goods and Services sector.
In terms of section 19 of the CPA, suppliers are responsible for delivering goods or services on the agreed date and at the agreed time, or otherwise within a reasonable time after concluding the transaction or agreement. They are further required to deliver at the agreed place of delivery or performance of the services. Where the supplier fails to deliver as agreed and fails to reach an agreement regarding alternative delivery dates and times, the consumer has the right to cancel the transaction without penalty and to receive a full refund.
Wiegenkind Boutique also appears to be in contravention of sections 47 of the CPA, the section forbids suppliers not to accept payment of goods if there is no reasonable basis or intention to supply those goods, or intent to supply goods that are materially different from the goods which payment was accepted.
Furthermore section 30 and 41 of the CPA. Section 30 prohibits suppliers from advertising goods as being available at a specified price in a manner that results in consumers being misled or deceived about the actual availability of those goods at the advertised price, or at all; while section 41 relates to false, misleading, or deceptive representations.
Consumers who shop online are advised to transact with reputable retailers and to especially be wary of unrealistically low deals. We further advise consumers to do due diligence before parting with their hard-earned money by checking with online communities before purchasing from unfamiliar online sites. The Wiegenkind Boutique brand has since been labelled a scam on most social media platforms and the site has been shut down, but such is the nature of e-commerce, that unscrupulous operators can pop up at any stage under a different name. Consumers are therefore urged to do due diligence before transacting with a new or unfamiliar e-commerce website.
We urge all online suppliers of goods and services to ensure that they comply with the CPA by ensuring the following:
- Displaying correct pricing. Where there is an error, it must be communicated to consumers and be corrected within a reasonable time, otherwise consumers are entitled to purchase at the displayed price;
- Providing a detailed description of the goods or services to avoid consumers ordering goods that are not fit for purpose;
- Displaying delivery times and communicating delays to consumers;
- Disclosing key terms and conditions, including return and refunds timeframes and channels;
- Displaying contact details and escalation processes if consumers have any queries;
- Avoiding bait marketing or overselling by ensuring that there is sufficient stock or indicating stock limitations in all advertisements where applicable;
- Avoid accepting monies from consumers if there is no stock or capacity to deliver the goods or services at the agreed time and date;
- Disclosing any other additional costs that the consumer would incur, including any delivery costs or cancellation penalties; and
- Providing a system for consumers to track their deliveries.
ISSUED BY OUMA RAMARU ON BEHALF THE CONSUMER GOODS AND SERVICES OMBUD
TEL: (011) 781-2607 CELL: 073 899 9551
CGSO sharecall helpline (0860 000272)