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ACM warns consumers about impulse buying on social media

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) today launched an awareness campaign called ‘Don’t just order something on social media. Find out first who they really are’ (in Dutch: ‘Bestel niet zomaar iets via social media. Check eerst wie er achter zit’). With this campaign, ACM aims to make consumers aware of the risks of impulse buying on social media. An offer may seem attractive in the advertisement, but, in order to prevent problems afterwards, it is important to find out who the seller is and if they can actually be reached before you buy something from them.

Bernadette van Buchem, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: ‘More and more often, people are approached directly by commercial parties on social media. It turns out that consumers may be readily swayed to impulse buying, and sometimes pay tens or hundreds of euros to businesses they do not know. That is why, with this campaign, we are calling on consumers to find out more about the seller before buying something from them.”

Buying via social media

Dutch consumers increasingly make purchases on social media, especially through online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Many offers are promoted in targeted ads on social media. You are able to buy a product in just a few clicks, without having to visit an online store. This can be convenient, but it can also cause problems. For example, it can be difficult to recover the advertisements. As a result, it is relatively easy for sellers to remain anonymous.

What do you do if a different product is delivered than you had expected, and you cannot reach the seller? Or if the product is not delivered on time, or you do not receive the product at all? Or if you thought you had ordered a free product, yet you nevertheless receive an invoice? Or if you do not get your money back even if you have returned the product within the cooling-off period? ACM’s campaign specifically targets consumers between the ages of 15 and 25 because these consumers are very active on social media, and are susceptible to impulse buying. In order to reach this group, ACM has also involved YouTubers.

What are consumers able to do?

It is often hard or impossible to cancel your order if you have already paid or if you have submitted your information in an order form. Therefore, ACM recommends the following:

  • Find out first who the seller is, and whether they are trustworthy;
  • Find out their contact information and save it;
  • Find out how they can be reached by phone and email;
  • Pay afterwards, or pay with buyer protection.

Through its consumer information portal ConsuWijzer, ACM offers an Online Shop Check. This tool gives consumers useful tips to assess whether or not a business is trustworthy.

Uncertainty about the seller

A few days after the purchase, consumers are often no longer able to find out from what business they ordered something. Some sellers list incorrect contact information (or even no contact information at all) on their social-media business page. That makes it hard or impossible to trace them.

It has also been revealed that businesses that sell via social media often do not give consumers all the information about the product, the businesses themselves, and the purchase itself, such as information about return policies and shipping costs. Whereas they, just like online stores, are required to list this information clearly before a consumer makes a purchase.

ACM finds it important that consumers are able to shop online safely. The topic of online consumers is one of ACM’s main priorities. ACM launched this campaign due to the increase of the number of purchases on social media. The goal is to make consumers aware of the risks involved, and to offer them tools to prevent problems. Consumers are able to submit indications about problems concerning purchases via social media to ConsuWijzer.