ACCC alleges Bloomex Australia duped customers with old reviews and phony discounts

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Bloomex Australia is headed to court after the consumer watchdog accused the online florist of using customer ratings that were seven years out of date and from overseas customers who had not purchased from the Australian arm of the global business, while also advertising “discounts” that were not what they seem.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) commenced proceedings in the Federal Court today, alleging that the website’s online star ratings were misleading customers because they had not been updated with customer feedback since 2015.

The ACCC further alleged Bloomex Australia had tried to pass off ratings from customers overseas as happy domestic customers, even though those people had not engaged in any business with Bloomex Australia.

“Online reviews and product ratings are an important tool that consumers rely on when making purchasing decisions. It is essential businesses ensure reviews are complete, accurate and current,” ACCC commissioner Liza Carver said.

‘Most complained about company’

In March, the New South Wales Office of Fair Trading says “no company has come close” to the number of consumer complaints about Bloomex Australia, with 47 people complaining about the business’ delivery delays, airing disputes over quality and the inability to contact the business directly.

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It’s been an ongoing problem, it seems. Fair Trading added that Bloomex Australia was also on 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.

It means, as of March, Fair Trading had seen at least 350 total complaints against it since 2015, though Bloomex provided SmartCompany with data that appears to show 221 complaints against the company have been registered with NSW Fair Trading since 2015, not 350.

Discounts not what they seem

Fast forward to now and the ACCC has also accused Bloomex Australia of faking a discount since “at least February 2019” by showing two prices alongside bouquets — the “original” price with a strikethrough and a second “discounted” amount — the former of which the ACCC alleges was just for show.

“Sale prices can create a sense of urgency that motivates a consumer to make a purchase. It is misleading to represent that a price is discounted when that is not genuinely the case,” Carver said.

The consumer watchdog says Bloomex also failed to notify customers of a mandatory surcharge of between US$1.95 to $4.95 on orders made on the website, with the “total price” customers were shown not reflective of this additional cost.

“Businesses must display the total price of a product or service, including any surcharges when displaying prices. If a business displays a price for just one part of a product, the total price must be also be displayed at least as prominently as the partial price,” Carver said.

“This year we began a focus on misleading and deceptive online advertising and have been very concerned with what we have seen in the online florist industry. We are warning all online florists to make sure they are meeting their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.”

It comes after the ACCC issued a warning ahead of Valentine’s Day this year to the online floristry industry amid a sea of reports of false or misleading representations about the locations of online florists.

The story was originally published on Smart Company.

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