CHOICE membership

The consumer authorities do not appear to act on every complaint

I get the impression that our consumer authorities only act on a minority of complaints.

I lodged a complaint to ACCC at the end of December 2018 after - a couple of months beforehand - being incentivised by a Bonds promise of a 40% discount and placing an online order on the Bonds website.

Per the below screen shot taken at the time (to which I have added arrows indicating the elements of contention), the order confirmation screen reflected Bonds’ promise of 40% off the price for purchasing four items. However, the applied discount amount was 25% rather than 40%. The promise and confirmation of a 40% discount were false and misleading.

I formally reported this to Bonds in early November, followed by a couple of letters confirming same, and received no acknowledgement, follow-up or resolution from Bonds.

I lodged a complaint with Consumer Affairs Victoria in March this year responding to the prompt: “how do you want your problem solved” with:
I would like Bonds to:
- Acknowledge their error
- Provide me with a refund covering the discount shortfall
- Compensate other impacted customers and
- Commit to ensuring their online shopping application is rectified to prevent a recurrence

I haven’t received any response from ACCC or Consumer Affairs Victoria.

The amount in dispute is small for me but one wonders about the total amount of loss across all impacted consumers for that 40% discount promotion.

Today I logged a complaint with ACCC about the website of company: Australian NaturalCare - https://www.ausnaturalcare.com.au/ - which makes a misleading claim about the products being sold on the site being manufactured in Australia by virtue of a kangaroo icon with the words: “Manufactured in Australia” in the website banner. There is no qualification of this claim provided in the banner.

(The red arrow in the top of the following screen shot was applied by me.)

The fact that only the vitamins and not other products sold on the site are manufactured in Australia is buried in the detail and is not readily apparent to the consumer. To access the detail, the user either has to:

  • click on the ‘Manufactured in Australia’ link, which navigates to a page about supplements on the site. Given the focus of the page is supplements, this loosely infers that the claim applies to supplements but omits any clarification that the claim does not apply to other products sold on the site.

  • drill down to the details for another product and then expand the ‘Information’ accordion control. Again the country of manufacture is not included in the product summary nor product description. Only the description section of the accordion control is automatically expanded on navigation to the page.

(The yellow highlights in the following screen shots were applied by me.)


I called Australian Naturalcare on 21-Nov-2019 complaining about this issue and it appears they’ve added the Country of Manufacture line item to the Information panel as a result.

The information shown after clicking on the Information accordion control to expand the Information panel:

However, I don’t believe the company’s action is sufficient to address the misleading overarching claim on the site. ACCC would probably agree but I have no confidence that they will ever address this issue.

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You would probably be much better off posting your exoerience on productreview.com.au than wasting your time with the useless toothless tiger, aka, the ACCC.

And the existing reviews on Product Review for Bonds are far from flattering.with an average score of just 1.9 out of 5 stars from 336 reviews with scathing comments to match.

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Thanks Fred - you’re right. It’s just exasperating that the authorities would bother to create a regulatory consumer protection framework without rigorously enforcing it.

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When we requested help regarding a breach of contract and unconscionable conduct by a foriegn owned multi-national company around 20 years ago, the useless ACCC told me that they only prosecute cases if they believe that they have at least a 90% chance of winning.

We were left to fight a million dollar claim by ourselves, which settled in our favour, no thenks to the ACCC.

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Possibly never will as they are set up more to respond to significant breaches of the ACL where there is a high likelihood of many customers being mislead. Many who have dealt with the ACCC know that they won’t resolve for each individual, complaints about a particular company or product. For them to do this I expect they would need a cast of thousands. The ACCC provides tools for individuals to try and resolve their own issues and complaints about products.

Notwithstanding this, when there is a blatant breach of the ACL where large numbers of consumers are likely to be mislead or not provided with the consumer guarantees under the ACL, the ACCC is more likely to take action.

The ACCC is also known for not being overly responsive to communications from individuals (namely responding to every email sent). Many communications seem to go into a ACCC ‘black hole’. It would be very simple for the ACCC to have a automatic response to any communication to say thanks for the information, that they don’t respond to every communication and if they need more information they will make contact.

In relation to the Bonds website, it could have been a simple error in programming the payment system to provide the 40% discount. These things happen and a reputable business would have refunded the difference to customers and also amended their website to remove the error.

Australian Naturecare (a small Byron Bay business) is more concerning as the banner indicating that products are manufactured in Australia. This banner appears at the top of the same pages which state that the product in manufactured in China. If one doesn’t expand the information tab, one may have the impression that the product may be manufactured in Australia. Naturecare could easily fix this problem by amending the banner to say "Supplements manufactured in Australia’. This would remove any potential for misleading consumers, providing that all their supplements are in fact manufactured in Australia. Not amending the website has the potential to mislead future customers.

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A bit off topic, but whilst on the subject of dodgy Bond’s.

Over 20 years and hundreds of millions later, it may finally settle.

Almost makes the Bonds promise look good.

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Ever heard of ‘window dressing’?

In their defence, the LNP and pedecessor Governements have mined the ACCC, and other regulatory bodies for ‘savings’ and ‘efficiency dividends’ that have left them even less able to undertake their roles.

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I would temper that comment because most small businesses are not expert in either web sites or trading laws and just want to get some sales. They can easily do it out of ignorance or technical incompetence rather than malice. Even a small change might be at cost as well as getting a web programmer engaged and the type of problem cited could be buried in a style sheet where it is not immediately obvious how to fix it for a whole website.

Citing the relevant laws and how the business breaches them might be a good step to have misleading claims corrected with a note that one might necessarily file a complaint with the ‘ACCC’ if they don’t fix it up in a few weeks. A small business is also more likely to ‘worry’ about it than a large multinational since they do not have the teams of silks to push back on any ‘agreed fines’ that could be made.

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Very sorry to hear of your experience. Good on you for fighting the good fight and congratulations on your triumph in the case!

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I take your point. However, ACCC acted on a small case whereby roofing contractors made some possibly-frivolous comments online proposing that “roofers across Sydney” should collectively increase their rates after a hail storm:

In that case, the ACCC action only involved enforceable undertakings, but that’s good enough in light of the offence. It sends a signal to operators that the watchdog is taking note.

For the Bonds issue, a promoted 40% discount silently materialised as a 25% discount at the point of check-out so, by comparison to the roofing contractors’ breach which did prompt action by ACCC, is a material violation.

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Lol! Yes, I suppose it makes my quotidian concern of being stiffed by an underwear company pale into insignificance. :smile:

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This is unacceptable. Don’t we pay the people who work there to protect us from businesses who do not follow the law? If businesses know the law is not being enforced , they will continue misleading consumers and being dishonest.

I think the ACCC should be investigated for ignoring complaints like this.

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I had the same problem with Bonds. Also I found a misleading promise of a $15 discount upon joining the loyalty scheme of Linen House (which has now been amended to include terms and conditions - I don’t know if my complaint triggered that).
image

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I assume you’re using productreview.com.au as an example of another ineffective forum for consumer feedback?

In my opinion, productreview.com.au, and any similar forums, have zero credibility due to the nature of the internet, people’s irrational and unfair criticism, and the growing spectre of paid reviews, incentivized reviews, and corporate manipulation of review sites in general.

I work for a major Insurer. I know how hard they try to game these “review” websites to get their scores high. But equally, a lot of ordinary consumers ruin the idea of democratic online reviews by only ever bothering to write when they hate something - thereby skewing the results negative.

I don’t have a solution for it. I’m just saying that I would much rather read Margot’s excellent and detailed breakdown of her experience with a brand, on a forum like this one. Than visit a source I don’t trust, like productreview.com.au

cheers,
D.

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No. I was using Product Review as an excellent example of the power of the internet to warn consumers about disreputable and unscrupulous businesses.

I note your comment that you work for an insurance company.

After receiving our home & contents renewal notice this month from our long standing provider, I obtained online quotes from 6 other companies, and the prices for our existing company and the other 6 ranged from around $1,500 to around $4,000 for virtually identical cover.

The 7 companies are AAMI, APIA, Comminsure, NRMA, RACQ, Suncorp & Youi, and 6 of them have abysmal reviews on Product Review, which is hardly surprising considering the disgusting revelations at the recent royal commission.

However, businesses who provide outstanding customer service such as Weber and My Pet Warehouse enjoy excellent ratings on Product Review, so there is obviously no underhand actions by their competitors to attempt to tarnish their image.

Whilst I have not posted ay reviews on Product Review to date, I have posted many reviews on TripAvisor, of which the majority have been good whilst a handful were a well deserved bad.

I have also posted regarding quite a few good and bad experiences on the Choice Community but there are simply not enough member posts regarding most products and services to allow consumers to form an accurate opinion on individual suppliers or products.

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A lot of information both good and bad about businesses get posted here, but unlike ProductReview and others at least here the Organisation behind the Community watches what is placed here and have their Raison d’être as Champions of the Consumers to take action and help when the consumers need support.

Finding good and bad reviews here can be like walking in a minefield, not knowing when you will find a path or bomb out. But if posted here by a consumer, then there are many like yourself @Fred123 who respond by either pointing to external and our internal information to help the user. I find many other sites not so useful in that way, they offer the raw data but they don’t offer the caring this Community abounds in. Perhaps a bit of Horses for Courses whether you just need a simple metric or a more detailed response and support?.

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I have taken to check Product Review now to get a feel for these shonky organisations and to hear other peoples reviews.

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My wife wanted to get a quote from some crowd called Sure Insurance which she saw advertised on TV with claims that they were looking after regional Queenslanders so I went through the exercise today.

The quote for over $2,700 was 35% more than our current insurers renewal notice, even prior to my “negioating” the premium closer to the renewal date.

I assume their claim “SAVE 30% ON AVERAGE*” actually refers to the highest premium which I obtained which was around $4,000.

So much for their claim of "PUTTING FAIRNESS FIRST. FAIR’ IS WHAT HOME AND CONTENTS INSURANCE IS SUPPOSED TO BE.

From the way we talk to the way we act, we make sure ‘fair’ informs every decision we make."

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It’s just sales Puffery and so allowed by Law. That is the saddest part is that the puffery to this degree of abstract is allowed by our current Laws.

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