Free delivery: Watchdog calls out e-commerce firms over rising scams

The watchdog has urged vigilance against deceptive practices employed by some online sellers and companies from fake deals to hidden charges. [iStockphoto]

Shoppers beware! The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has issued a strong warning about a surge in e-commerce scams and online rip-offs targeting consumers.

The watchdog has urged vigilance against deceptive practices employed by some online sellers and companies from fake deals to hidden charges.

CAK has specifically highlighted the "free delivery" ploy, where unsuspecting shoppers end up paying extra fees.

The agency's warning sheds light on the tactics used by scammers and offers tips for safe online shopping experiences. “The Competition Authority of Kenya has seen an increase in complaints from consumers purchasing goods online, either from licensed e-commerce platforms or from suppliers using social media networks to market their products,” it said.

“A review of the complaints from consumers, the alleged conduct reveals the manipulation of consumer choice through perpetuating dark commercial patterns.” Dark commercial patterns are features that exploit behavioural biases by complicating, hiding, or omitting information, or by employing manipulative design elements, to trick consumers into purchasing a product online. 

According to CA, some of the dark commercial patterns may take the form of hidden costs/ drip pricing; hidden subscriptions; supply of defective goods; non-refund and redress policies; disguised advertising; false urgency, creating the impression that a consumer will miss out on a deal; and privacy concerns. 

It gave the example of a complaint from a consumer who purchased books online from Text Book Centre Ltd. 

According to CAK, the website had indicated that any purchase of books would attract “free delivery.” 

“After purchasing, the complainant was informed that he would be charged for delivery since the free delivery was only for post office delivery,” it said.

“The Authority also handled complaints against Jumia Kenya Ltd where a consumer purchased food online, and the order was cancelled without a refund. After the Authority’s intervention, the consumer was refunded his money.”

 Another complaint against Jambo Shoppe Ltd was about a consumer who purchased shoes, but upon receiving them, they were of the wrong size and Jambo Shoppe were unwilling to remedy the situation. The Authority intervened in the matter and the consumer was refunded his money.

Due to the convenience buoyed by relatively high-speed internet and the availability of smartphone devices, more Kenyans are now purchasing goods and services through e-commerce platforms.

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