The New South Wales Office of Fair Trading says “no company has come close” to beating the number of consumer complaints recorded against Bloomex Australia, a florist that promises to be “fast, fresh, and fair”.
However, the company has disputed claims made by the consumer watchdog and highlighted how complaint registers like the one produced by the NSW Office of Fair Trading do not provide order volumes for context.
The NSW Office of Fair Trading released its monthly Complaints Register data for February this week, and the online florist broke the record for most complaints made, with 47 customers complaining about the business’ delivery delays, airing disputes over quality and lamenting the inability to contact the company directly.
The office acknowledged that February was peak time for flower orders due to Valentine’s Day, but said Bloomex had also made the list of the most complained about businesses in September 2016, with 11 customers taking issue with the business, and again in January 2017, with another 14 complaints recorded against it.
NSW Fair Trading said since 2015, 350 complaints have been made against Bloomex over a range of issues, with Fair Trading Commissioner Rob Stowe saying the situation shows the role that the state’s complaints register can play in warning consumers against problem businesses.
“When shopping online, consumers should always check the trader’s refund policy when shopping online prior to making a purchase,” Stowe warned in a statement, encouraging shoppers to do their research before shopping online, particularly for purchases like gifts and flowers.
However, Bloomex has disputed Stowe’s claim and provided SmartCompany with data that appears to show 221 complaints against the company have been registered with NSW Fair Trading since 2015, not 350.
Company spokesperson Sue McDonald, who is the PR and communications manager for Bloomex in Australia and Canada, told SmartCompany that Bloomex “does its best to cooperate fully with all Fair Trading officers and each complaint is fully addressed”.
McDonald said, when considering the number of complaints registered with NSW Fair Trading in the context of how many orders the company processed during that time period, the complaint ratio is “extremely low”.
“For example, from October 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, Bloomex processed 25,488 orders,” McDonald explained.
“According to Fair Trading, Bloomex received 100 complaints in this time period. This means our complaints rate is actually 0.0039% over this six-month period.
“For July 2016, Bloomex processed 3375 orders and received three complaints, for a complaints ratio of just 0.0008%. In August 2016, Bloomex processed 4277 orders yet received only two complaints, for a complaints rate of just 0.00046%.
“It’s unfortunate that the current set up of Fair Trading does not allow for calculation of the ratio of complaints to sales, to provide a more accurate snapshot to consumers. Instead, any time more than 10 complaints are received in a month, the vendor is placed on the list, even if the complaint rate is extremely low, the complaint is unsubstantiated, is placed by a direct competitor, or even if it is already resolved.”
Bloomex was founded in Canada in 1999, and the company website explains how the business grew from an individual flower shop to a delivery service with the goal of providing “customers with superior quality gifts at much lower prices”.
The business lists operations in Canada, the US and Australia, and claims since opening a production facility in Sydney in September 2011, it has become Australia’s “National Florist” that operates with the philosophy, “Fast Fresh Fair”.
However, there is a slew of complaints on social media about the service provided by Bloomex in both Canada and Australia.
Complaints include that the company never delivered orders as specified but refused to acknowledge refund requests, and that it could not be contacted after late deliveries occurred. Other upset customers say they received follow up sales calls, despite previously complaining about the business but those complaints never being resolved.
SmartCompany attempted to contact Bloomex Australia multiple times, but found it difficult to reach either the sales desk or head office for the company by phone and email. Its Sydney production plant is listed as being located in Auburn, while its Australian head office address is a unit in Lidcombe. Attempts to contact a number for the Sydney head office were met with disconnected phone lines and message bank services.
The company later provided a written statement to SmartCompany and supplied information provided directly to it from the NSW Office of Fair Trading.
In the statement, McDonald also highlighted the increased volume of orders Bloomex received for Valentine’s Day in February and explained that it had contracted partner florists to help fill some of those orders.
“Unfortunately, two of the partners (in Brisbane and Melbourne) were unable to complete them on the day of,” McDonald said.
“This resulted in approximately 1000 orders, which had to be refunded, sent later, or otherwise dealt with, as quickly as possible”. Bloomex has issued an apology to customers on its website and said it will “continue to work to remedy all customer service complaints as efficiently as possible”.
Fair Trading NSW says it receives more than 50,000 complaints against businesses each year, and has been collecting data for a monthly register of complaints since July 2016. Companies that receive more than 10 complaints in a calendar month make the list.
The office says the register provides transparency by revealing trends on complaints data to consumers, while also holding companies to account by naming businesses publicly when a number of customers have had concerns about their operations.
The register has highlighted consumer concerns in the real estate, electronics and retail sectors, with regular appearances from real estate agencies, electronics companies, airlines and online retailers. Retail giant Harvey Norman has appeared in every one of the eight monthly lists so far, as has Apple. Real estate agents LJ Hooker have appeared on the list six times, Air Asia and Qantas have both appeared twice, and Jetstar made the list for the first time in December 2016.
*This article was updated on May 4, 2017, to include a response from Bloomex.