Read the “Terms and Conditions” of Food Delivery Platforms Carefully Both Operator and Customer are Obliged to Provide Accurate Information

15 July 2020
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    Read the “Terms and Conditions” of Food Delivery Platforms Carefully  Both Operator and Customer are Obliged  to Provide Accurate Information

    With more people being stuck at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a surge in demand for food delivery services which has become a new normal amongst many consumers. However, there were nearly 170 complaints lodged with the Consumer Council against food delivery platforms in the first half of this year. Most of the cases were related to “delay in delivery”, "missing orders" or “unsuccessful delivery”. Having waited for 1.5 hours after making an order with payment made, a complainant was informed that his address was not covered within the service area and the meal would not be delivered; another consumer who opted to collect the food in-person from the restaurant was notified that her order had been cancelled with no refund as she failed to pick up the food within the specified time. Consumer should pay attention to the details in the terms and conditions when using online food delivery service platforms to avoid unnecessary disputes.

    The Council also reminded operators of food delivery platforms to clearly disclose important terms and ensure that customers provide complete delivery addresses and contact telephone numbers for proper order processing. If there is any omission, they should remind the customers earnestly. Platform operators should also regularly review the information of the food suppliers. If the food suppliers have moved out or been closed down, they should update such information on the platforms as soon as possible to avoid misleading the consumers.

Case 1: Late collection led to refusal of refund

    The complainant ordered 2 dinner meals for $141 through delivery platform Company A and opted to collect the meals directly from the restaurant. On the way to the restaurant, she received a message from Company A that the order was cancelled because she did not pick up the meals within the specified time. Since the complainant’s order was cancelled while she was on her way to collect the meals only because she was late for around ten minutes, she thus asked Company A for a refund but got rejected.

    The complainant misunderstood that the collection time was only a reference suggesting when customers should collect the meals as it was not mentioned on the website that it was indeed the time limit for collection of the meals. Had she known about it, she would have spared sufficient time to collect the meals. Company A stated that the terms of online ordering had been stipulated, and the collection time was provided in the confirmation email. Usually delivery service platforms would keep the orders at the food suppliers’ premises for 20 minutes to allow for a reasonable delay in pick-up. In the event of exceeding the time limit, the order would be cancelled without refund. According to the record, the complainant did not collect the food 31 minutes after the scheduled time. After relaying the message to the complainant, she did not ask the Council for further action.

Case 2: Drinks spilled on delivery and the brand did not match the order

    The complainant ordered 13 handshake beverages from delivery platform Company B and paid $421 by credit card. After the beverages were delivered, they were found tilted and some content had leaked out. In addition, the trademarks printed on the take-away paper bags and cups were not the same as the brand the complainant had ordered. Some cups did not even have any trademark printed on them. Although the taste and the number of beverages delivered matched the complainant’s order, the complainant still felt uneasy about it. Company B explained that the drinks delivered were from a subsidiary of the brand that the complainant had ordered, and said that its business address was the same as that of the brand in the order, thus Company B would only arrange for partial refund and offer her some credit points. After the Council’s intervention, Company B recognized the dissatisfaction caused and agreed to offer a full refund.

Case 3: Order rejected after waiting for 1.5 hours, simply inputting address to the wrong field

    The complainant followed the system instructions on Company C’s delivery platform to enter "Tsuen Wan" as the service district, and spent $408 to order food from a restaurant listed on the platform. He then kept monitoring his mobile phone closely but after waiting patiently for 90 minutes, the food courier called to confirm him that the restaurant was indeed in Kwai Fong of which the service scope did not cover the delivery address and refused to deliver the meal. The complainant was dissatisfied and pointed out that Company C provided the restaurant options based on his address. His order was accepted and payment was made but ultimately he did not receive the meal. The complainant had twice filed a complaint online to Company C which only replied that the delivery staff had called him for a few times to confirm the address but failed. The staff waited for 15 minutes and eventually reported it to the company as failed delivery.

    After the intervention by the Council, Company C explained that the complainant did not fill out the complete information in the “delivery address” field. Instead he filled out the name of the estate and the block number in the “delivery notes” and it led to the misunderstanding of the food courier. The platform operator eventually made a special arrangement of a full refund and gave extra credit points to the complainant.

    The Council advises consumers to take note of the following points when placing order on food delivery service platforms:

- Read the terms and conditions carefully before using the service; cross-check the delivery address before confirming the order and keep a screenshot of the order. Pay attention to the call after the order is placed;

- For self-pickup, beware of the time limit and spare sufficient time for collection. When failing to pick up the meal within the time limit, consumers should notify the restaurant immediately to agree an alternative arrangement;

- Many food delivery platforms include an opt-out option for cutleries. If possible, consumers should use their own cutleries to reduce waste and support sustainable consumption.

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