During lockdown in Greece the number of complaints to the Consumer Ombudsman regarding problematic transactions with online stores soared, coming to 1,200 in the first half of the year, Deputy Consumer Ombudsman Efthymios Tsigas told Kathimerini.
This high number is also related to the fact that in the year’s first half, and especially during the lockdown when the demand for e-commerce rose significantly, many e-shops were unable to keep up with orders, sometimes leading to long delays. As a result, many of those complaints did not lead to any action being taken, as the products were eventually delivered. This is why the number of reports drafted in recent months by the Consumer Ombudsman concerning e-shops that failed to respond to the watchdog’s call for an out-of-court settlement constitutes only a fraction of all the complaints registered.
On the other hand, there was also a considerable increase in misleading or other troublesome practices, with the tactics employed by new e-commerce arrivals being identical in most cases: Complaints concerned companies that offered popular tech products at particularly favorable prices in comparison with their competitors, thereby attracting a high number of interested customers. The latter may have paid part or all of the price due, but almost never got to collect their orders as the online stores constantly postponed the delivery dates, without meeting their obligations. Estimates put the average losses at 200 to 1,000 euros per person.
“In the last few years, especially this year, there has also been a huge rise in ghost companies. To contain this phenomenon, we are applying the legislative framework for the protection of consumers,” noted General Secretary for Commerce and Consumer Protection Panagiotis Stamboulidis. “After the voting of Law 4712, the monitoring by the watchdog inspection unit will become stricter, and we will have the capacity to deactivate websites that adopt misleading practices,” he added.
Furthermore, according to the provisions of the draft law, e-commerce platforms that act as intermediaries for e-stores will be threatened with fines from €1,500 to €2 million if they abuse their relationship with traders or forfeit agreements. Price comparison platforms also use criteria to tell genuine traders from crooks.