Warning over online retailer after shoppers lose $150,000: How the consumer law game is changing

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New South Wales Fair Trading is warning consumers not to deal with three online electronics stores after the retailers accepted payment for goods without supplying the products to consumers.

Digital Skies Group Pty Ltd trades as Android Enjoyed, Camera Sky and Klukker, which all sell smart watches, mobile phones and cameras.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rob Stowe has warned consumers to seriously consider making a purchase from the sites, after Fair Trading estimated the total value lost to consumers to date was $150,000.

“This company is the subject of numerous complaints, and Fair Trading has been unable to make contact with the business owner despite numerous attempts,” Stowe said in a statement.

As Australia’s bricks-and-mortar retailers continue to face pressure from online retailers in the electronics space, it’s a timely reminder that some operators skirt the edges of the Australian Consumer Law. Despite listing an Australian address, Fair Trading found Digital Skies Group had no physical operational presence in Australia.

Ursula Hogben, principal and general counsel at LegalVision, says the game is changing for how the consumer law is applied in Australia as online retail moves ahead of developments in the law.

If a business has a physical presence in Australia and a business is operating as a local importer, they must meet standards for consumer protections, even if all other parts of the operation have come from overseas.

However, when operations are based entirely outside of Australia, the application of penalties becomes more difficult.

“You basically don’t have a solution [if that happens],” Hogben told SmartCompany.

“It’s up to the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] and the individual to take action, and it becomes really difficult to apply the law.

“The takeaway from this is that you cannot assume,” she says.

NSW Fair Trading said in a statement it had been unable to contact the business owner despite “numerous attempts”. Android Enjoy, Klukker and Camera Sky each list phone numbers in Victoria, NSW and Queensland on their websites, and a PO Box at Westfield Parramatta as an address, but Fair Trading says there is no actual “operational address” in Australia.

SmartCompany attempted to contact all three brands multiple times this morning by phone and email but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Hogben says that in online commerce, it’s no longer as straightforward as asking whether a business is “carrying on” business in Australia when deciding whether the consumer law can be applied.

For retail stores, a “business” used to relate to the store’s physical presence, where any websites were hosted, where the payment took place and where the goods were shipped off and delivered.

“At the moment, the old law is applying to new situations,” says Hogben.

As early as 2013, a number of customers took to forum Whirlpool to complain that Digital Skies brands had not communicated with them regarding items that had not been shipped after being on back-order.

Customers also requested refunds on the Android Enjoyed Facebook page, complaining of orders that were paid for but not shipped.

“Absolutely NO customer service and you will be left hanging with no product, no idea of when or if it will ever turn up, no way of tracking your order,” wrote one customer.

NSW Fair Trading has urged any customers who have used any of the three websites and are not satisfied with their experience to contact them on 13 32 20.

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