NSW watchdog warns customers away from fashion business backed on Shark Tank

Kath Purkis on Shark Tank

A fashion subscription services that was previously featured on Channel Ten’s Shark Tank is once again in the spotlight, after the New South Wales consumer watchdog issued a public warning for shoppers to steer clear of the business.

In the second season of Shark Tank, fashion startup Her Fashion Box received a $200,000 investment deal with sharks Janine Allis and Andrew Banks teaming up to back the business. The subscription service sends customers fashion and beauty items every month for a fee of $39.95.

In July, the business was forced to defend itself on national television, after a number of customers told A Current Affair they were charged for products that were not delivered. The two customers interviewed on the program were later given refunds and at the time Her Fashion Box founder Kath Purkis committed to providing refunds promptly to customers if there were disputes.

In a public warning issued on Friday, NSW Fair Trading told shoppers to “avoid doing business” with Her Fashion Box, saying it had received several complaints about the business and had had difficulty contacting Purkis.

“The complaints received mostly relate to accepting payment without supplying goods, not responding to requests to cancel subscriptions and not responding to contact from consumers about missing goods,” said NSW Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe in the statement.

“In some cases, two monthly subscription payments were collected before any goods were delivered.”

NSW Fair Trading has not specified how many complaints it has received about Her Fashion Box and the business is not included in the watchdog’s public complaints register for July and August, which lists businesses with at least 10 complaints against them.

According to a statement provided by Purkis to Fairfax, there is only one current complaint about her business before NSW Fair Trading.

“In the small handful of requests from Fair Trading over four years in business, Her Fashion Box has always replied and actioned any requests immediately including proof of delivery, proof of tracking numbers, replacement items or refund if necessary,’ Purkis said in the statement.

‘As it stands today, it appears there is one request from Fair Trading which is currently open.”

SmartCompany contacted Purkis, however, she said she is unable to comment further.

What businesses can do in this situation

With multiple state-based fair trading bodies in Australia, as well as the national regulator, businesses regularly find themselves as the subject of warnings or media releases.

According to InsideOut PR director Nicole Reaney, once an external party like Fair Trading NSW is involved, “it’s time for the business to step up and address the concerns of all parties”.

In this case, the fact that Her Fashion Box is associated with Shark Tank and its investors, the potential reputational damage is more significant, Reaney says.

“Her Fashion Box needs to rectify the issue swiftly to prevent the situation escalating and trust diminishing further,” she told SmartCompany.

“Identifying key stakeholders from suppliers, customers, media, the public, Shark Tank, Fair Trading – and then developing an action plan and communicating directly with each in relation to the problem, its causes and the intended next steps and timing to rectify the situation.”

Reaney says “complete transparency” should form the basis of the communications plan from this point.

“A complete communications plan needs to be developed and implemented, using the company’s multiple communication platforms it has available, from email to social media and phone calls,” she says.

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