Coupon website 'offered deals without approval'

An online group coupon website has been accused by at least four merchants of offering discounts for their businesses without their knowledge.

The House of Seafood, Three Wombats Cafe and Suan Thai restaurants, as well as tour agency Singa Travel, all said that they have no dealings with dealon.com.sg, although their "offers" were found on the website up till Saturday.

Mr Rick Poh, operations manager at Serves U Right F&B Consulting, which manages Three Wombats Cafe, said he was alerted to this when a customer attempted to redeem a voucher purchased from the website.

"We have told customers to stop using the website and alerted some of the other merchants advertised," he said.

Three Wombats Cafe and House of Seafood have made police reports after their businesses appeared on the website.

When contacted, a Dealon spokesman said that while they have partner merchants who pay them service fees to advertise their offers, they "also promote non-agreeing merchants' products free of charge to increase their sales revenue".

He added: "We will pay non-partner merchants the featured price once the deal is purchased, whether it is redeemed or not within three business days."

Their aim is to "increase the sales of offline business in Singapore and create a database for our website".

The spokesman went on to say that if Dealon receives feedback from merchants who do not want to be listed on the website, the deals would be removed immediately.

The deals for House of Seafood and Three Wombats Cafe, among others, were taken down last Wednesday following requests by the merchants.

But they mysteriously reappeared on the website last Friday, again without the merchants' permission.

The Straits Times understands that some of Dealon's non-partner offers are "clones" from other deal websites such as Deal.com and Voucherlicious.

"We have recently been made aware of Dealon cloning our promotions when some buyers tried to redeem the promotion at our merchant's place using Dealon vouchers, leading to confusion," said Voucherlicious' director Alex Devendran.

The Consumers Association of Singapore said that it has not yet received any complaints about Dealon.

But it advised consumers to check with merchants directly before buying vouchers from such websites.

jingjie@sph.com.sg

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