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|Although e-commerce is increasingly popular nationwide, many establishments are struggling in the battle to win the trust of consumers Photo: Le Toan|
Last week, some complaints were made about Lazada.vn displaying and selling replica guns with accessories. These products were in fact plastic guns with bullets made of plaster produced in China.
Immediately after receiving the complaints, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Industry and Trade, the Market Surveillance Agency, and the Customs Department set up an inspection of Lazada.vn. Under pressure, the company removed all these products from its website.
This is not the first time the company has violated regulations. Last year during Halloween, parents were shocked to see swords and imitation hands, feet, and fingers being displayed and sold on the platform. Customers were even offered free fake blood capsules when completing their purchase.
Elsewhere, in late 2018 consumer Mai Anh complained that she had bought an Asus laptop on Lazada’s website for VND7.869 million ($342). The purchase came with an order code which gave an electronic warranty of 24 months, and promised a returns payment within 15 days.
The following day, Anh received her order in an old box. Inside, she found the laptop locked with a password from a previous owner and covered with fingerprints without a sealed stamp.
“I requested that Lazada explain why I received such a poor-quality product but so far I have been given no answer. They asked me to send the laptop back and they will repay me. It’s clear to me that Lazada cheats its customers,” Anh said.
E-market fraught with violations
Such issues are not only exclusive to Lazada.vn but have also involved other e-commerce platforms such as Sendo and Shopee.
A similar complaint was made about Sendo on the Tinhte online forum in February by a customer with the username Tran Le Gio. They complained that, “People should boycott Sendo. Sendo scams and robs customers.” According to the customer, he paid VND1.99 million ($86.5) for an Oppo F3 smartphone in November but instead recieved an F5 made in China. “I asked the support department and knew that I had to wait for the shop’s confirmation within 48 hours. If the shop didn’t confirm, Sendo would not take the product back,” he shared.
Meanwhile, Le Hai Linh from Hanoi’s Nghia Tan area told VIR that she would never shop online again. “Once I bought a dress on Sendo because I liked its style, the colour looked great too. I paid VND300,000 ($12) for it including the shipping fee. But I couldn’t wear it. The material was of poor quality. The colour wasn’t what I wanted,” Linh said.
With the e-market offering many bargains, Shopee is well-known as a place where fake products are publicly sold. On the platform, it is possible to find different prices for the same product set by different shops. Prices can range from several to hundreds of US dollars. With little clarification by shops on the quality or origin of their products, it is often difficult for consumers to make informed decisions on their purchases.
Last August, Shopee was investigated for selling a toy bearing an image of a Chinese map which violated Vietnam’s sovereignty. Shopee was forced to remove the toy which showed a map featuring the nine-dash line that China uses to illegally claim sovereign Vietnamese territory in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea. Moreover, these products were printed in both English and Chinese, without a Vietnamese translation, which violated regulations on labelling goods.
These are just some of the complaints on violated cases at the three biggest e-commerce platforms in the country, although there are many online selling websites and free sellers working on social networks nationally. However, data released from the Ministry of Industry and Trade takes a closer look at violations occurring in this burstling market. In 2018, there were 36,000 products and almost 3,200 accounts and stores locked or removed on platforms due to a violation in products being sold.
It’s clear that fraud regarding the selling of prohibited goods has been popular across e-commerce platforms. This has bad impacts on the trust of customers as well as creating unequal competition in business.
Currently, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) is compiling a draft circular on management of e-commerce websites on mobile platforms in order to better oversee online business activities.
Accordingly, the MoIT will publicise the names of these e-commerce websites, mobile application as well as the names and information of violating sellers, website owners, and applications.
According to Dang Hoang Hai, director of the MoIT’s E-commerce and Digital Trade Department, banned goods and services in accordance with Vietnamese law and restricted products such as alcohol and cigarettes must be managed, prevented, and removed by the platforms’ technical measures. “Because of Lazada’s violation in accordance with the Decree No.124/2015/ND-CP, they may face a penalty of up to VND40 million ($1,700),” Hai said.
Penalties given to violators must be based on legal documents, whilst current regulations with light penalties are not enough of a deterrent, according to lawyer Tran Thuy Nga from the Hanoi Bar Association. Co-ordination among relevant agencies is also weak, which makes it more challenging to prevent violations.
“To improve this situation, we should increase punishments and consider withdrawing business licenses or even criminal handling,” Nga told VIR.
Meanwhile, Pham Tan Dat, CEO of Fado.vn, a platform that supports Vietnamese individuals and businesses to do online trade and a partner of Alibaba in Vietnam, said that the current operating mechanism of e-commerce platforms is a coded and a continuous trading process based on data.
“For prohibited goods, e-commerce platforms use software to filter by keywords, while for fake goods they have to identify manually,” he said. “Theoretically, e-commerce platforms could manage products by papers. Sellers must submit documents for imported goods, while domestic goods require factory certificates, certificate of origin, and an invoice,” he added.
Following this procedure would take a long time to upload a product online. However, to attract private businesses as well as to compete with each other, the country’s e-commerce platforms must easily facilitate stores. Dat believed that when violations occur, aside from punishments for both the platform and the seller, platforms need to support state management agencies like public security, market management, and inspectors to investigate illegal trade activities as well as provide necessary information, transaction history, and other documents about the violators.
Nguyen Binh Minh, representative from the Vietnam E-commerce Association, said, “Only when platforms have their own managing mechanisms and sellers are serious with customers’ trust, can the fraud be stopped. Why does Amazon gets the trust of customers? It’s because when you can sell your goods on this platform, it proves that all your details have been noted by Amazon,” Minh told VIR.
“To own a store on Amazon, sellers have to join a short time training course, gain the certificate of Amazon as well as answer dozens of strict commitments and ensure be online 24/24.” Minh added.