Tue, Feb 15, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Watchdog questions online food vendors’ trade policy

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

An investigation by the Consumers’ Foundation into the practices of Internet food vendors showed that a majority failed to provide clear explanations for their return and exchange policies and that many charged “unreasonable” fees on certain payment methods.

Although online shopping has been around for some time, few people are aware of their consumer rights when they purchase items on the Internet, the consumer rights watchdog said.

The foundation last month monitored 10 of the most popular businesses that sell food and beverage products via online channels to determine whether their policies were consumer friendly.

Although Article 19 of the Consumer Protection Act (消費者保護法) states that consumers have a seven-day grace period to return or exchange goods purchased through channels in which the user may not have the chance to examine the product ahead of the purchase — ie, through mail order, direct order, TV infomercials and the Internet — many online stores do not clearly state this on their Web site, the foundation said.

It said its survey of the online shopping sites showed that 90 percent did not clearly explain the terms of returns and exchanges in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act.

“Many [online shopping Web sites] state that once the consumer opens the product packaging, no returns or exchanges would be accepted,” foundation chairwoman Joann Su (蘇錦霞) said. “However, this is unreasonable, as consumers have the right to examine a product and return it if it is unsatisfactory.”

Several companies do not offer consumers the option to pay upon receipt, while others charge an extra fee if consumers choose this option, which the foundation said was unreasonable because the processing fee should be the responsibility of the vendor.

Online vendors that refuse to provide exchanges if the consumer does not report a defective product within a day of purchase are also in violation of the Consumer Protection Act, Su said.

The foundation reminded consumers they are entitled to returns and exchanges within seven days of making purchases through special channels such as the Internet, and that companies that refuse to provide this service are violating the law.

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