Digital Planet, one of the largest online computing stores in South Africa, was recently on the receiving end of a consumer complaint at the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) for displaying a product that was unavailable on their site.
In essence the complainant, Mr. Renen Watermeyer, submitted that the advertisement of a ‘cit 300’ was misleading as the advertised product was not available on order.
Digital Planet responded to the issue but also said that the product had been removed from its site which satisfied the ASA, on condition that the advertisement in question is withdrawn with immediate effect and not used again in future.
Digital Planet responds
“Digital Planet was recently approached by the ASA regarding a product on our site which our suppliers made end of life and we were not able to fulfill. We always try to give our customers the best service and we try many things before cancelling the order,” said Neil Watson, Managing Director of Digital Planet.
“Once we’ve got confirmation from the supplier that the product is end-of-life, we remove the product from our site so that the same situation does not occur again. We also try to find alternative suppliers or products. Often in this scenario, we can find a better or similar product which we will give the customer, the customer is willing to take it and we will ship that product. Some products, such as games, don’t have alternatives and in this case, we are forced to credit the customer,” Watson explains.
Watson points out that Digital Planet uploads about 300 pricelists a month from their suppliers to keep their pricing and products current. “There are about 10000 products on Digital Planet at any given time,” says Watson.
“We also upload stock levels from our suppliers to make sure we aren’t selling products which are out of stock or end of life. We rely heavily on the stock levels and price lists of our suppliers.”
Watson says that Digital Planet had some backorder issues earlier in the year, but that they worked hard on the process and that their backorders have reduced dramatically and their communication has improved considerably.
“The key to our success is threefold, firstly we need to upload the stock lists from our suppliers as often as possible, secondly, when there is a product which has a stock issue, we need to put it on the site as quickly as possible, finally, we need to inform our customers of any problems as quickly as possible,” says Watson.
Watson argues that the ASA treats every product on every website as an advert. “If any information is incorrect on the page or a customer feels like the page is misleading, they can complain to the ASA and the ASA will investigate. If the page is removed, then the ASA considers the advert withdrawn and rules that the matter is resolved,” said Watson.
“For our particular incident, we could not fulfill the product and the customer rightly felt that this meant our advert was misleading. He chose to go to the ASA regarding his complaint. In this particular case, the complainant was right – we couldn’t fulfill and we removed the product from our website. Once the product is removed from the website, the ASA considered the matter closed,” Watson concluded.