Fresh bid to protect online consumers

Fresh bid to protect online consumers

Fraud scams rife, claim activists

A group of organisations has called for a centre to take charge of protecting online consumers as they faced no less risk of being scammed than customers in physical markets.

At the Consumers Unite to Fight Online Scam seminar, the website of Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said its hotline 1212 had received 4,000 complaints about online shopping this year.

Among them, 18% complained about being defrauded in matters such as not receiving goods, exaggerated advertisements, receiving poor quality goods and getting no compensation from vendors.

Setthapoom Buathong, a victim, said he transferred money to buy a rubber mattress for 3,400 baht but received nothing from the seller. He found out there were 5,000 victims of that trader who used about seven Facebook pages to sell the goods.

The seller has netted more than 1.8 million baht.

"Each victim lost not too much money and don't want to go to a police station many times so many victims just yielded to it," he said.

"But the value altogether is a lot so we have to take action so the cheating traders are punished."

Sarawut Neelayothin, founder of the Waen Vintage [Vintage Glasses] Facebook page, said he was sued by a seller for giving information to consumers about the standard requirements and certification of genuine brandname and quality glasses.

Saree Aongsomwang, secretary general of Foundation for Consumers, said that last year, the Association of Confederation of Consumer Organisation, Foundation for Consumers, ETDA, Board of Trade of Thailand, Thai e-Commerce Association, Central JD Commerce, Lnw Co Ltd, and Beautynista Co Ltd entered a Memorandum of Understanding about consumer protection as they have seen many problems arise from online shopping platforms.

The main cause stemmed from fraudsters who deceived customers while consumers did not have enough information to investigate sellers or their goods for protecting themselves from cheating.

In addition to buying overpriced goods or receiving broken goods, damaged by delivery companies, consumers can also be swindled through their private information.

She said online selling is hard to control. That is why there are more victims and illegal commodities such as abortion drugs can be commonly found.

In addition, she attempted to push for a law to regulate sellers to be responsible for faulty goods in the same way the US has a "Lemon Law".

She said one victim lost 400,000 baht after she was lured by a phone call to give a "one-time password" to confirm online payment through a credit card.

She said personal information should be strictly and safely kept because it can cause great damage to consumers in the cyber system.

Niyada Kiatying-angsuree, Manager of Thai Drug Watch, said the main reason problems are lingering is that there was no specific centre to coordinate organisations that are responsible for cracking down on wrongdoing in online selling.

"The duty of the centre is applying laws to protect consumers by involving organisations such as Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, Thai Industrial Standards Institute, Consumer Protection Police Division, Technology Crime Suppression Division and consumer protection civil groups to make online defrauding offences liable for charges," she said.

She said the government should empower consumers to accuse the sellers, once they are mistreated by them, and allow customers to approach a registered seller database to investigate their status by themselves.

Prawit Leesatapornwongsa, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications commissioner, said the authority does not have the power to charge foreign websites that committed wrongdoing on their platforms. This makes foreign traders on the net almost beyond the reach of the law.

Paitoon Poolsawat, of the Consumer Protection Police Division's subdivision 4, said victims have mostly been deceived by food supplements, cosmetics, tour packages and advertisements that overstated their goods or services.

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