Be Cautious When Trading or Doing Business Dealings on Social Media
The Consumer Council of Fiji has issued a timely warning. Be cautious when dealing with individuals and businesses on social media.
This warning comes after they received a complaint where a family paid $450 to an individual they met online for upholstery works on an antique furniture.
The work was not completed and this left the family out of pocket. Now, when the council tried to find the company, they quickly realised that there was no physical address on where to reach them.
This is what council chief executive Seema Shandil had to say: “Consumers are urged to be cautious when hiring and dealing with individuals/businesses from social media platforms for services such as construction, joinery, mechanical, electrical, upholstery and so forth. Whilst this seems convenient, as one does not have to go around searching for such service providers, there are some unfortunate consumers who have lost out on their hard-earned money, especially at a challenging time like this.
“The council, in the past few months, received related complaints from consumers concerning various online trading platforms. Currently, a similar case has been registered where a family in Samabula paid $450 to the company whom they hired through
Facebook, to carry out upholstery works on an antique furniture. The upholstery company promised to repair the furniture at the consumer’s residence which was deemed convenient because of the consumers’ work commitments.
“The trader however, despite receiving the full payment, did not complete the work. Many attempts by the consumer and the council to receive redress proved futile, as the trader was unregistered and the business had no physical address.
“It becomes difficult to pursue, as these online businesses cover their tracks and maintain anonymity. Hence before engaging in businesses advertised on online platforms, it is important to check whether or not the business is registered, provide full business details which should include their registration, contact details and physical address. When dealing with businesses who provide services such as construction, mechanical, electronic, plumbing or upholstery, so forth, these are some of the factors to look out for in order to ascertain whether or not they are genuine businesses.”
When we tried to contact the company whose name we have withheld for now, for their side of the saga, we found out that there was no contact number available. Contact was requested through their Facebook page, but was not provided.
Why is this an issue?
As Ms Shandil pointed out, it is often convenient to search for small businesses through Facebook or other social networking sites, but at what cost. This is merely one example. The council has many such cases with them where the trader could not be traced or failed to fulfil their side of the bargain.
This does not mean that there are no genuine traders on these sites. But when you buy direct from a physical store, or from a registered company who sells online, you have a means to get remedy.
Those who do wish to operate online businesses should also do the right thing, they should reach out to the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Tourism, get help in setting up a proper business.
Having a properly registered small business has its advantages too. You can access loans and funding from banks such as Fiji Development Bank, which has played a big role in providing the start-up support for small and micro enterprises.
The Consumer Council of Fiji has issued a timely warning- be cautious when dealing with individuals and businesses on social media.