South Africans complaining bitterly about bad service with online shopping

Complaints over online shopping continued to dominate submissions to the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) throughout the 2022/23 financial year.

According to the CGSO’s annual report, problems with online transactions accounted for 34% of all complaints received between 1 March 2022 and 28 February 2023.

“The most common consumer complaints relate to delivery, cancellation of agreements, and defective goods,” the CGSO said in its report.

Specifically, these complaints include:

  • Retailers failing to deliver goods on time
  • Cancellation of orders or agreements
  • Goods becoming defective within six months of purchase
  • Poor after-sales support or poor service when handling complaints

The number of complaints about e-commerce accounted for more than double the proportion contributed by appliance manufacturers or telecoms.

Online transaction complaints made up 34% of all submissions to the CGSO during the year, with appliance manufacturers and retailers contributing 15% of all complaints.

Submissions relating to telecoms and satellite services made up 14% of the complaints received.

The chart below shows the contribution of complaints from each sector during the 2022/23 financial year.

Complaints by sector during the 2022/23 financial year. Source: CGSO Annual Report 2022/23.

“E-commerce continues to grow in popularity and accounted for 34% of all complaints by sector, compared to 25% in FY2021/22,” the CGSO said in its report.

“Complaints in the telecoms and satellite services sector reduced from second to third as compared to the previous reporting period (from 18% in the prior year to 14%).”

Complaints relating to the e-commerce sector have been on an upward trend since the Covid-19 pandemic, with submissions regarding online transactions making up 25% of complaints received by the CGSO in the 2021/22 financial year.

This was down slightly from 26% in the 2020/21 financial year, a significant increase from 4% the year before.

Last year, the CGSO said the complaints relating to online transactions showed that online shoppers buying clothes or electronics were the most likely to be scammed — and this still appears to be the case.

The CGSO released four alerts warning consumers to exercise extreme caution when dealing with particular retailers—all four alerts related to online retailers failing to deliver goods once they have received payment.

  • Online at Liepies — womens’ clothing, shoes, and accessories (February 2022).
  • Sassy Heals — store selling shoes on social media platforms (April 2022).
  • PC Link Computers Online Store — computers, electrical appliances, and accessories (May 2022).
  • Reliable Store — wide range of products, including electronic appliances, computers, cameras, gaming tools, etc. (December 2022).

At the time of the warning against PC Link Computers Online Store, both the retailer’s websites — pclinkshop.co.za and pclinkshop.com — had vanished.

The online PC hardware and accessories retailer had accumulated up to 215 consumer complaints against it at the ombud between 1 April 2021 and 29 April 2022, with 134 cases still open against the online retailer.

The table below compares the portion of complaints from each sector received by the CGSO over the past three years.

Top five complaints sectors
Category FY 2020/21 FY 2021/22 FY 2022/23
Online transactions 26% 25% 34%
Appliance manufacturers and retailers 15% 14% 15%
Telecoms and satellite services 12% 17% 14%
Furniture retail 12% 12% 11%
Building sector 5% 6% 5%

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South Africans complaining bitterly about bad service with online shopping