The Mail on Sunday

Beware the fashion rip-offs so enticing even the ex-editor of Vogue fell for them

British f irms ( including one based in a Dartford semi) are seducing shoppers with glamorous online adverts – then sending them cheap t at made in Chinese sweatshops


BRITAIN is playing a key role in a controvers­ial £ 65 billion industry that stands accused of fooling the public into buying poor quality, cheap Chinese-made clothes by advertisin­g them on social-media sites as glamorous boutique products. An investigat­ion by The Mail on Sunday has found dozens of so-called ‘drop shipping’ firms have been registered in the UK by Chinese nationals who arrange for often shoddy goods to be dispatched around the world from factories in their homeland. Some of the manufactur­ers are suspected of running sweatshops where staff work long hours for low pay.

Shoppers are attracted by photograph­s of Western models in apparently high-quality – but cut-price – clothing. When the product arrives, usually after many weeks or even months, many customers discover that it barely resembles what they have ordered and is made of inferior materials.

Review websites such as Trustpilot are packed with critical comments, many detailing how efforts to return the products and obtain a refund have been slow or fruitless.

Mail on Sunday columnist Alexandra Shulman, a former editor of Vogue magazine, is among those left disappoint­ed. She spent £27 on a dress advertised on a website called which ‘looked really nice’. However, when it arrived, it turned out to be ‘an item of unrecognis­able hideousnes­s’.

OnceAngel is owned by a firm called Bumperr Ltd – its directors include Chinese national Lingling Wu and Briton Amy Greenhalgh. Ninety-seven per cent of its ratings on Trustpilot are either ‘poor’ or ‘bad’. The company, which is based at a business park in High Wycombe, Buckingham­shire, did not respond to requests for comment.

Two other companies, Xehia Trading Ltd and Yingchuang Internatio­nal Electronic Commerce Ltd, which are behind more than 300 drop shipping websites, are linked to a semi-detached residentia­l property on a housing estate in Dartford, Kent.

Jit Bahadur Ghale, who lives at the property, said: ‘I have been doing work through an accountanc­y firm for clients. Mr [Arvind] Kohli, my boss, is the one who deals with everything. I work for him, that’s all. This was the registered address but I complained to my boss and he changed the registered address last week. He’s communicat­ing with his clients in China or Hong Kong.’

Mr Kohli runs an accountanc­y firm called ASVSH and is listed as a previous director of both Xehia and Yingchuang Internatio­nal Electronic Commerce. He said: ‘I am upset and saddened by this event and I am also sorry that my involvemen­t in this matter has led to people receiving substandar­d goods.

‘My company was approached by a man from China who wanted to set up a company for his business. At no time was I given any indication that they intended to sell clothing from these websites. The reason I was given for forming the companies was that they eventually wanted to provide financial services to companies in the UK. I have contacted Xehia Trading Ltd and asked them to stop using the Dartford address and have terminated my dealings with them.’

Rexitt, one of Xehia’s stable of websites, boasts of being ‘devoted to creating an unbiased platform for small brands and yet- to- befamous designers who are seeking bigger audiences for their designs’. It offers to ‘sell products directly made by our own factories with high quality but lower price’. It too has drawn criticism from its customers. Buyer Jane Murray wrote on Trustpilot: ‘Do not go near this bogus company. All items

‘These schemes are accelerati­ng the downfall of the high street’

made of cheap polyester, cheaply finished and in no way of the quality you assume.’

Another buyer wrote: ‘I ordered two dresses from a Facebook ad. The dresses were cheaply made and they are not true to size. The dresses do not fit.’

The frustratio­n of many is compounded by difficulti­es returning the products and getting a refund. Some requests go unanswered, while other people are fobbed off. In one case, a customer was advised to give their goods to a family member instead of paying to return them to China.

Experts say unscrupulo­us firms are cashing in on the growing popularity of drop shipping and risk damaging the reputation of the whole industry.

James Brown, managing partner at strategy consultant­s Simon, Kucher & Partners, said: ‘Legitimate retailers have a reputation to uphold and generally strive to treat customers well and provide a good product, but the ease with which anyone can get into drop shipping means that companies will try to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible before walking away when negative reviews pour in. Many will simply fold the company, start another one and do the same thing again.’

E-commerce expert Ian Rhodes said: ‘This is the pyramid scheme of modern day e-commerce. Most who get involved see it as a getrich- quick scheme. Invariably, consumers lose out.’

And Professor Liz Barnes, of the Manchester Fashion Institute, added: ‘One of the real tragedies of these kinds of schemes is they are accelerati­ng the downfall of the high street because people increasing­ly think they can buy cheap clothes online. I have been a victim of these kinds of ads. In the back of my mind I knew I wouldn’t get what was advertised at the price it was, but I still fell for it.’

While there is no evidence that Bumperr, Xehia Trading or Yingchuang Internatio­nal Electronic Commerce work with Chinese sweatshops, a House of Commons report last year concluded that ‘prison labour in China has been used to produce garments for wellknown Western brands’.

Sylvia Rook, lead officer at the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards, advised those unhappy with their goods to pursue a refund through the company or contact their bank. ‘If the price of a single item was over £100 and you paid by credit card, the card provider is equally liable under Section 75 Consumer Credit Act for faulty or misdescrib­ed goods or goods not received and will have to provide you with the refund,’ she said.

‘If the item was less than £100, you can still make a claim through a process known as chargeback, where the bank will attempt to reclaim the money for you.’

 ??  ?? SCAM: Outfits advertised on three drop shipping firms’ social media sites. Top right: The Kent estate where two such firms are registered
SCAM: Outfits advertised on three drop shipping firms’ social media sites. Top right: The Kent estate where two such firms are registered
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