LAHORE: Zainab was going through her Instagram feed when some pretty outfits on an e-commerce page caught her eye.
After gaining a visual and assuming that the clothing was of good quality, she placed an order. After all, there was little reason for doubt as the page had a significant number of followers.
Three days later, a parcel arrived at Zainab’s place but the courier representative asked her to make the payment before opening the package. Zainab agreed but was immediately taken aback after opening the parcel.
The colour and sizes of her outfits were different from what she had specified. To top it off, when she called the number through which she received a confirmation some days ago, there was no response.
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“When I tried to reach the seller, it turned out that there was no contact number or invoice provided to me,” Zainab told The Express Tribune. "The company, however, wrote a return, Karachi-based address on my parcel which turned out to be bogus.”
Zainab said that she contacted a relative in Karachi who confirmed that the address written on the parcel was completely fake. She is not alone when it comes to online-shopping woes.
Thousands of people across the globe fall prey to e-commerce scams every day. And now that the phenomenon of online shopping is increasingly popular in Pakistan, there has been an increase in fraudulent activities as well.
In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a plethora of online businesses that operate through various social media channels. These pages attract consumers by marketing low-cost items including clothes, shoes, electronics, cosmetics, and accessories. However, when the goods are delivered, they often turn out to be of poor quality or different from the customers’ specifications.
What’s more worrisome is that many of these e-commerce companies do not share their phone numbers with the clients, while bogus addresses, if any, are given due to which complaints against the delivered goods cannot be filed.
While online shopping has enabled large-scale and renowned companies to offer high-quality goods to their consumers, several small companies -- that operate under the garb of e-commerce -- are not only mushrooming but also increasingly engaging in fraud, misrepresentation and deceptive practices.
Abdul Rehman, a frequent buyer of electronic items on the internet, said that he has suffered losses through online shopping at least thrice. “Two months ago, I ordered an expensive microphone and a charger stand for my mobile through a lesser-known website, but the things delivered to me were entirely different from my specifications,” Rehman recalled. “I made repeated calls to the mobile number through which order the confirmation was made, but it was unreachable.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Aurangzeb Khan – a representative of a leading Pakistani e-commerce website – said that at present, the country does not have any laws pertaining to online buying and selling because of which fraud has become commonplace. “You do not need to get your company registered and can simply operate through social media accounts,” Aurangzeb Khan said. “Such online sellers can furnish false information without a trace and because of them, large-scale online businesses, with above-board operations, are also affected. The best way to fight such scams is to verify the company on the phone before placing an online order.”
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The cyber crime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is also working to combat online fraud. Talking to The Express Tribune, FIA deputy director Chaudhry Sarfaraz said action against online fraud may be taken on a complaint by any consumer in accordance with the Cybercrime Act.
The complainant must have the record of the online order as well as information pertaining to the company. “Many companies do not provide invoices to their customers and this makes it difficult to take action against,” he explained.
Consequently, consumers are left without any proof to establish their complaint due to which companies continue to commit fraud. “Pakistan also has consumer courts to take care of such issues and the court is actively working to resolve various disputes,” Sarfaraz concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2019.
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