Be Cau­tious When Trad­ing or Do­ing Busi­ness Deal­ings on So­cial Me­dia

Fiji Sun - - EXPLAINER - Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

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.

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