Vietnamese consumers have been duped into buying mobile devices of famous brands at attractive prices by a telesales company, only to eventually have copycats or knockoffs delivered to their door.
The consumer rights protection agency under the Vietnam Competition Authority (VCA) said it had recently been flooded with complaints from victims of the deception, all of whom had agreed to buy the products after listening to the honeyed words of the company’s telesales people.
The most common method is to provide consumers with misleading information regarding the name of the company and the products themselves, and to insist that delivery be made via post using cash-on-delivery (COD).
The fraudulent company also requests that the COD parcels only be opened once payment is cleared.
This means consumers only learn of the deception when their money is already gone.
Even if they learn of the trick when the deliveryman is still there, buyers cannot hold him accountable as he works for the postal company, not the telesales firm.
“As a last resort, buyers will call the seller to complain, with the company’s response being that the customers just misunderstood their words,” the VCA said in a statement.
“Buyers will have no evidence to fight back as their phone conversations are not recorded.”
Finally, the duped buyers have no choice but to take the cheap products, whose real value is far below what they have paid.
However the company is not always successful with the scam, as some consumers, like T. N. Giau of Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, are cautious when dealing with telemarketers.
Giau recalled her story to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper earlier this month to raise awareness among other consumers.
On June 23, the woman received a call from a landline phone numbered 08.xxxx334, and talked with a saleswoman, who spoke in a central Vietnamese accent.
The salesperson, introducing herself as an employee of the “Vien Thong E company,” told Giau that she had accumulated points worth VND5.5 million (US$246) through her membership card at the company, and invited her to buy some mobile devices at discounted prices.
In her central Vietnamese accent, spoken by people in provinces like Phu Yen or Binh Dinh, the /a/ and /e/ sounds are quite similar and hard to distinguish. Giau was therefore confused if the woman was from Vien Thong E or Vien Thong A, a popular mobile phone store chain.
After asking the telesalesperson to repeat the company name, Giau could still not tell what it really was. However, she eventually believed that it was Vien Thong A, and asked to have some time to consider the offer.
The salesperson called back 60 minutes later, offering to sell Giau an iPad Air 2 16G for only VND3.5 million ($156). Giau agreed, underlining that she would only pay if the product really was what she claimed it to be.
On June 25, a Tan Binh Post Office attendant met Giau to deliver the product to her. Giau said the parcel was completely sealed, with the label describing the sender as Thanh Tin Vietnam Co. Ltd., located on Vo Van Kiet Street in District 6.
The label also said the product inside was a tablet, plus a giant text reading “Do Not Open." The postal employee said he was only responsible for delivering the goods and receiving the payment, but could not let Giau check the parcel.
Giau phoned the company, requesting it send an employee to check the parcel with her. The company then asked Giau to pay before opening the package, to which Giau agreed.
However, it turned out that what was inside the parcel was a tablet branded iPed.
When Giau phoned the company again to complain and reject the delivery, she was told that “iPad is pronounced iPed in a Vietnamese accent” and “despite their name difference, the iPad and iPed have identical functions,” the buyer recalled.
Giau was forced to take the knockoff iPad, but later came to the company’s office on June 27 to get her money back.
The company agreed to pay VND3.5 million back to Giau, after she showed all the necessary evidence: the recorded phone calls and photos of the iPed parcel.
“I started to believe it was a trick when they phoned me for the first time, so I recorded every conversation with them to use as proof just in case,” she told Tuoi Tre.
Many consumers are not as lucky and cautious as Giau, so they have to taste a bitter pill in the end.
A woman named Thuy in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City, for instance, consented to buy a Samsung Galaxy A8 for VND8.5 million ($379) after a phone call from the company, but finally received a made-in-China MIQ A8.