In early February, Miss Lee, in urgent need of some face masks, browsed through a social media platform and found a post by a purchasing website selling Japanese face masks. She contacted the vendor via the platform and the vendor replied saying that the face masks would cost $300 per box and would be available in mid-February. The vendor also provided Miss Lee with a QR code to facilitate payment via a mobile payment platform. 1 week later, Miss Lee enquired about the order status, and was told that the masks would arrive by 20 February. Incognizant of a possible scam, Miss Lee kept waiting. In late February, Miss Lee discovered that the vendor’s social media page was no longer updating its posts, and her attempts to send messages to the vendor also failed. The vendor´s account was later deleted altogether from the platform. Miss Lee realized that she might be a victim of a scam and turned to the Council for assistance.
Follow up actions
After reviewing the communication records, the Council noticed that apart from the vendor’s account name on the social media platform, no other information relating to its business or contact details could be found. Furthermore, the payment was made to a personal bank account via a mobile payment platform. The Council told Miss Lee that this would be deemed as a personal transaction and hence difficult to have conciliation through the Council. Miss Lee understood that it would be difficult in retrieving her money, but she was also worried that the vendor might repeat similar scams using other account names, and thus agreed to report her case to the Hong Kong Police Force Police (the “Police”) for further investigation.
In early February, Miss Yeung, who needed some pocket size hand sanitizers, saw a post by Company B selling Japanese alcohol-based sanitizers on a social media platform. The items were labelled as “currently in-stock” and could be delivered in 3 to 5 days. She ordered 4 bottles and paid $385 (including delivery fee). However, Miss Yeung did not receive any update on her order status for nearly 2 weeks and there was no other news on vendor´s social media page. She tried various means to contact Company B but was not successful. Moreover, she found that other people who had purchased the items had also left comments on vendor´s page regarding similar issues. Even though the sum was small, Miss Yeung was wary of a possible scam after waiting for almost a month. She then lodged a complaint with the Council about Company B’s failure in delivering the “currently-in-stock” items within the timeframe as promised.
Follow up actions
The Council was not successful in reaching Company B by phone. However, the company subsequently sent an email to the Council and apologized explaining that the delay was due to the recent surge in orders coupled with inadequate manpower. Upon receipt of the Council’s letter, Company B had immediately delivered the items to Miss Yeung and the case was resolved.
In mid-January, Mr. Cheung saw a post on a social media platform selling face masks and the arrival date was estimated to be around 2nd half of February. Mr. Cheung followed the instructions and logged onto Company C´s website, and purchased 6 boxes of Korean face masks and paid $468 by credit card. As there was a shortage of supply, Mr. Cheung tracked closely the order / delivery status. In early February, the company reiterated in a post stating that the face masks were expected to arrive in 2nd half of February and if customers did not want to wait for that long, they could apply for a refund before 14 February. After that, if the company still failed to deliver the masks, a refund (less of a 3% handling fee) would be made after 15 March.
Mr. Cheung chose to wait for the face masks and did not apply for the refund. In late February, Company C explained in a post that due to a tight supply in Korea, the face masks were unlikely to arrive in Hong Kong before March, but claimed that the company would try to find other suppliers. Mr. Cheung felt quite helpless upon reading the post as he had not chased his order repeatedly because of his trust in the company. The company had not been able to provide any record or evidence showing that it had actually ordered the products from the suppliers, and no one would know when the face masks would arrive eventually. Mr. Cheung found that a number of other customers were also chasing their orders and he was not hopeful that he would receive the goods in the end. Although Company C had already mentioned a 3% handling fee on refund, Mr. Cheung found it unreasonable to ask the customers (who didn´t receive the goods) to bear this cost. After all, the customers did not cancel the orders deliberately, but it was the company who failed to deliver the goods as promised. He therefore lodged a complaint with the Council.
Follow up actions
In its email response, Company C emphasized that the deduction of a 3% handling fee had been stated clearly on the sales post back in mid-January. The company said that it had also stipulated the refund arrangement afterwards, and it was busy handling a large number of refund requests (which were made prior to the deadline). As Mr. Cheung did not send a refund request before the deadline, his refund would only be processed after 15 March.