Have you ever used an online florist to send someone flowers? Well, on a complaint from a reader about one such e-shop, I checked four Indian online florists.
Only one, which is part of a branded chain of retail flower shops, passed the test: It provided the names of the people who ran the business and the company’s postal address. The other three gave no names, no addresses.
There was no clue as to who owned them or from where they were operating. I clicked on their ‘About us’ link and got no information whatsoever. Their ‘Contact us’ link only led to a mobile number and an e-mail address.
How can one trust such sites?
It’s time the government made it compulsory for all online shops to provide the name of the owners, their complete postal address and telephone number (including a landline number).
It should also become mandatory for them to guarantee the privacy and security of the site (for safe-payment transactions) through third-party verification and certification.
The sites should also be required to get a ‘certificate of trustworthiness’ as a retailer. This certificate should not only mean that the merchant adheres to fair business practices, but also that he provides a satisfactory system of consumer complaint redress. Either an independent agency or an association of trade and industry should issue such a certificate after due process of verification.
In North America, for example, the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Online Trust Mark certifies that the online business has been checked and verified by the BBB and that it follows certain basic privacy and security practices.
The BBB trust mark also links online shoppers to a page that gives them access to BBB’s review of that business. The BBB also provides online redress of consumer complaints.
There have been similar initiatives from businesses in many countries around the world, including Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Japan. Several countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, UK, have provided adequate legal frameworks to protect online shoppers.
Consumers in India need to demand such measures not only from the government, but also from the trade and industry. In the absence of such initiatives, experiences like the one described below will only make consumers wary of online shops, and rightly so.
Jagannath Rao: Recently, I placed an order to send flowers to my father on his birthday through on online Indian florist. In fact, I chose this florist after a detailed web search. Even though the order was placed well in time and the money was deducted from my card immediately, the bouquet was never delivered. What action can I take?
Answer: First and foremost, lodge a complaint with the economic offences wing of the Delhi police dealing with online fraud. On the basis of the telephone number and the credit card transaction, they will be able to give you the postal address of the florist, which you will need to file your complaint.
Meanwhile, please ask the florist to refund your money along with interest and also send a bouquet of your choice free of cost to your father, with an apology note.
If they fail to do it, lodge a complaint with the consumer court, seeking, not just refund, but also compensation for the disappointment caused to you. Use claims made on the website such as ‘guaranteed delivery’ etc, to show unfair trade practice and deficiency in service.
Do you have any problems? Send in your queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org