ACM urges online store Wearpods to refund consumers that have been harmed
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has reprimanded online store www.wearpods.nl because it violated the rules that protect consumers when making online purchases. In its online store, Wearpods sold wireless earphones that it imported directly from China. The company primarily targeted young consumers.
Well-known influencers were used in the company’s promotional activities. Consumers filed complaints with ACM’s consumer information portal, ACM ConsuWijzer, and with Dutch consumer affairs show #BOOS (which literally means ‘angry’). Consumers said that they received their orders either much too late or even not at all. And when they did receive the earphones, they often did not match the description on the website. Wearpods has stopped selling these earphones. ACM has urged the owner of Wearpods to give consumers who have already paid but not yet received their orders a refund as soon as possible, and to address any outstanding complaints.
Wearpods either does not deliver or delivers much too late
Online store www.wearpods.nl gave unclear or incorrect information about delivery times of their wireless earphones. In practice, the delivery time was much longer than what was promised on the website. The company had the products shipped directly from China, while not holding any stock themselves. This is referred to as ‘dropshipping’. Consumers thus received their orders much later than expected or failed to receive anything at all. In addition, the online store gave incorrect information about the earphones’ features.
Consumers should be able to be confident that the product that they order matches the product that is presented and described online. In practice however, the quality turned out to be much lower than expected. In addition, consumers were not able to return the product within the statutorily mandated cooling-off period, because the online store gave incorrect information about said period. Furthermore, its customer service was subpar. Wearpods failed to reply or did not give any substantive reply to emails, and it took them much longer to respond than the promised 24 hours.
Wearpods’ website is no longer active. Since there are still consumers that have been affected who are waiting for their refunds, ACM is calling on the owner of Wearpods to give them their refunds as soon as possible, and to address any outstanding complaints. If the website does become active again, and the owner of Wearpods violates consumer protection rules again with that website, ACM will take enforcement action. For example, ACM can impose an order subject to periodic penalty payments or impose a fine of up to 900,000 euros per violation. ACM will continue to keep a close watch on the situation, for example by checking the complaints filed with ACM ConsuWijzer.
On the Internet, more and more businesses become active that do not hold any stock themselves, but instead have their products directly shipped from, for example, China. This is allowed, but they will have to comply with consumer protection rules, just like any other online store. For example, they will have to give consumers correct and complete information about the product’s features, the costs, and the delivery time. In addition, they will have to offer the right to return, and provide information about where consumers can go to in case of questions and complaints. If an online store cannot deliver the order within the agreed upon period, it must inform the consumer about that. The consumer may then cancel the purchase. The company will then have to pay back the money to the consumer immediately. Furthermore, the consumer can always return their online purchase within 14 days after receiving it. In that case, a full refund must be paid within 14 days.
Swift approach to consumer problems
ACM has many different instruments at its disposal for solving consumer problems. In this case, ACM prefers to reprimand the company in order to solve the problem quickly. ACM does not have the power to compel businesses to compensate individual consumers. In other cases, ACM may, following an investigation, choose to impose a fine or an order subject to periodic penalty payments.