HCM CITY — The Ministry of Industry and Trade is drafting a new circular to guide oversight of online shopping following recent public complaints of cheating due to consumers' ignorance and credulousness.
Duong Thi Ngoc Giau of Tan Chau District, An Giang Province told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that she had been cheated while buying a mobile phone online.
She saw an ad on website www.didongsaigon.net claiming there was a 50 per cent discount, and decided to buy a Nokia X6 phone.
She called a man named Khoa who asked her to send money to his account and promised delivery the next day.
But after two days, when no one delivered the product, the penny dropped and she realised she had been ripped off.
She intended to complain to the police but gave up soon because of the hassles and tortuous procedures involved.
The website was operating at least as of February 17.
Tu of Ha Noi's Tay Ho District, a regular online shopper, also told Tuoi Tre that he had fallen victim once.
He sought to buy a second-hand Ipad 32G for VND11 million (US$523) from a man named Long in HCM City. Long gave him all his personal information, including address and home phone number.
He told Tu to deposit VND5 million ($238) and promised to deliver the Ipad as soon as he got the money.
Tu sent the money to Long's account but received nothing, and later discovered he had been cheated.
Nguyen Nam Vinh, chairman of the southern office of the Viet Nam Standards and Consumers Association, said there were a number of complaints from consumers shopping online, mostly about poor quality of products and fakes.
They had no recourse except complaining to the association in the hope of finding a solution, he said.
Nguyen Huu The Trach of the HCM City Bar Association, said cheating online has recently become common, and the offenders can be punished severely under criminal law.
But it is difficult practically since evidence is required and that is extremely hard to find because everything is done online, he pointed out.
Besides, victims give up too easily since the laws to protect online shopping customers remain weak and poorly enforced, he added.
A spokesperson for the city's Department of Industry and Trade said his department has a section that manages online trading activities, but admitted it only focuses on promoting e-commerce instead of inspecting or supervising it.
Truong Hong Quang of the Institute of Law Research said the laws on online trading remained weak, while the responsibility of website owners is not spelled out.
"Though the laws stipulate that those who advertise and sell products online must not sell products of poor quality or fake products, the problem is that website owners cannot control or manage all information posted on their website," he said.
But worse still, owners did not verify the antecedents of people who advertise and sell products on their websites, he added. — VNS