Case warns of Danish retailer's 'unethical practices'

Online seller of beauty products accused of sending invoices for products not ordered

A Danish online retailer has been accused of sending payment invoices to customers for products they never ordered, prompting the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) to issue a warning against the firm after receiving 19 complaints since last November.

LuxStyle International, which sells beauty products, had placed advertisements on social media which directed consumers to its website. The site did not display prices unless a name, home address and e-mail address were provided.

IT professional Gaurav Kumar, 28, did just that to view the $50 price tag after coming across a LuxStyle-sponsored post on Facebook advertising a pack of liquid facial masks in January. "I found it very expensive, so I didn't continue to key in my credit card payment details and order it," he said. "But, a while later, I got an e-mail telling me the order was confirmed."

He also received the parcel.

Mr Kumar wrote to LuxStyle to say that he had not placed any orders, but a customer service officer insisted he did. "Filling out the order form and accepting the terms and agreements... completes the order process," the officer wrote. The order could not be cancelled, he added, but Mr Kumar could return the parcel to Denmark.

QUESTIONABLE METHODS

These practices by LuxStyle are highly unethical and prohibited under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.

CASE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR LOY YORK JIUN, on the gripes against the retailer.

Mr Kumar did not, as he suspected that it could be a scam.

LuxStyle has since sent Mr Kumar several notices, via e-mail and post, warning him to pay within 10 days, failing which, the firm may refer the matter to debt collectors and its lawyers. The firm has also been billing him a $10 late penalty fee for each month that payment has not been made.

Mr Kumar has set up a Facebook page, LuxStyle International Scam Singapore, to warn others, and lodged a police report last Wednesday.

LuxStyle's chief executive Jacob Helleberg Mathiesen, in an e-mail reply to The Sunday Times, insisted there was nothing wrong with his firm's order flow.

He said that only consumers who clicked on the "order" button on the site after viewing the price - and hence, actively agreeing to purchase the product - would have received an invoice.

But Mr Kumar and another affected consumer, domestic helper Marisel Adame Vicuna, 43, said they had closed their browser window after viewing the price, and had clicked no such button.

Case's executive director Loy York Jiun said: "These practices by LuxStyle are highly unethical and prohibited under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act."

Unless the consumer expressed an intention to accept and pay for the goods at the point of checkout, he is not obliged to make payment and the cost of returning the goods should be borne by the company, Mr Loy added.

Consumer watchdogs in Europe and Australia have also issued public warnings against LuxStyle in recent months.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 09, 2017, with the headline 'Case warns of Danish retailer's 'unethical practices''. Print Edition | Subscribe