The Hong Kong Consumer Council has received 522 complaints received in the first six months of 2022, marking over 30% rise in complaints when compared with that of the same period last year. According to the report by the council, along with existing issues such as wrong or delayed delivery, some new tactics such as monthly subscription plans or membership schemes have also caused unhappiness for consumers.
For instance, some platforms offered monthly subscription plans with various discounts, but the discounted self-pickup price was more expensive than the dine-in price. Consumers were also charged a monthly fee on their credit card account despite having deleted the ordering app that claimed to provide a free trial within the welcome offer period. Other issues also pertain to delay in delivery and lack of suitable compensation.
The council added that sales practices may be misleading, and can convey to consumers an impression that they have been deceived. “Not only would this lead to disputes with consumers, but it may also damage the reputation of the platforms, causing an unanticipated loss,” said the council.
The council also urged food delivery platforms to strengthen their price transparency and set out the various charges and related terms and conditions clearly so that consumers can make informed choices and gain confidence towards these services. It also warned consumers not to be tempted by the various promotional offers, but rather carefully compare the pricing listed.
“The Council reminds consumers that although food delivery platform services are convenient, consumers should remain rational when using the apps and avoid over-relying on them as a daily habit. They should make more comparisons and read the details of the charges and relevant terms and conditions carefully before committing to any monthly subscription plans,” it added.
Some guidelines the council outlined for consumers that delivery companies should also heed include:
Pay attention to order information such as pricing
: Apart from referring to the dine-in price when making an order, consumers should also check the details of the order, such as the selection of self-pickup or delivery, as well as the accuracy of location and time, before submitting the order.
Scrutinise membership tiers and details of promotional offers
: Some food delivery platforms categorise their users as free members and paid members. Paid members may be entitled to different promotional offers, such as greater discounts or free delivery, etc. Consumers are advised to read the terms of the “free trial” of the paid membership service in detail, as a membership fee may incur after the trial.
Be aware of account records
: Consumers should regularly check their “membership plan” and “purchase history” settings, as well as monthly bank statements. If any unauthorised charges are identified, consumers should contact relevant platforms as soon as possible to follow up.
Understand the termination process
: Deleting the app does not necessarily discontinue the service. Subscribers may need to follow specified steps and initiate their termination within a set period of time in order to be confirmed as having completed the membership cancellation process.
- Keep receipts for future communication with the platform : Consumers are advised to take photos and retain the receipts for record purposes. In case of disputes, they should quickly contact the food delivery platform and provide relevant information supporting the purchase. Some food delivery platforms may not have a hotline, and consumers may only be able to follow up with the company through online customer service and email.
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