Money Consumers urged to avoid some flower retail websites this Valentine's Day

23:00  12 february  2017
23:00  12 february  2017 Source:   Sydney Morning Herald

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" Valentine ' s Day is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year but, unfortunately, for some shonky operators it's a chance to earn a quick buck Two businesses that have attracted consumer ire in the past are Ready Flowers , a Perth-based "order-gatherer" website that takes a large slice of

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Mellisa Doyle, an unhappy Bloomex customer. © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald Mellisa Doyle, an unhappy Bloomex customer. This Valentine's Day there's a risk the $100 bunch of red roses you've ordered online for your significant other will arrive late, wilted and damaged – if it arrives at all.

Each year, after special days such as Valentine's and Mother's Day, consumer protection agencies see a spike in the number of complaints about online flower retailers who have failed to deliver fresh bouquets on time.

The number of complaints about online flower and gift hamper purchases to NSW Fair Trading has nearly doubled to 177 in the past two years. Complaints in the month of February has increased from 21 in 2015 to 31 the following year.

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Ready Flowers managing director Thomas Hegarty says his business processes 250,000 orders each year in Australia. © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald Ready Flowers managing director Thomas Hegarty says his business processes 250,000 orders each year in Australia. "Valentine's Day is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year but, unfortunately, for some shonky operators it's a chance to earn a quick buck for substandard goods and service," says Matt Kean, the new Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation.

"In one case, a bunch of flowers was delivered a day early on February 13 and looked nothing like the picture on the order page, and in another case, seven of the 12 roses ordered were badly damaged, with holes in the petals."

Two businesses that have attracted consumer ire in the past are Ready Flowers, a Perth-based "order-gatherer" website that takes a large slice of the payment before forwarding the order to a local florist, and Bloomex Australia, which claims to ship flowers direct to consumers.

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Bloomex customers complain on Facebook about shoddy flowers. © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald Bloomex customers complain on Facebook about shoddy flowers. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has investigated Ready Flowers following complaint spikes in previous years, and the business has tried to make changes.

In the lead-up to Valentine's Day, the ACCC says it has "reopened its files" and advised Ready Flowers it will immediately investigate relevant complaints.

"Increasingly, consumers are looking to online reviews and other publicly available information in deciding whether to acquire goods and services from particular businesses," an ACCC spokesperson says.

"Consumers looking to these sources might want to look at multiple sources. When relying on promised delivery times, consumers should keep note of the promises made."

Under Australian Consumer Law, if shoppers don't receive a product of acceptable quality and that matches the description, they can pursue a repair, replacement, or refund.

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Florist Rita-Savannah Sakr at work in her garage after she had to close her shop when she wasn't paid by an online flower ordering company. © Steven Siewert Florist Rita-Savannah Sakr at work in her garage after she had to close her shop when she wasn't paid by an online flower ordering company. Bloomex Australia, part of the international Bloomex network, is also causing grief.

Outraged Bloomex customers have flooded social media, forums and product review pages with complaints about incorrect flowers, rotting fruit, and ribbons commonly used for funeral arrangements.

Customers have also set up Facebook pages such as "Bloomex Australia Sucks" where they've posted shots of what they ordered compared to what they received: incorrect flowers, withered petals and snapped stems.

Screenshot of a discounted Valentine's Day bouquet on the Ready Flowers website. © Esther Han Screenshot of a discounted Valentine's Day bouquet on the Ready Flowers website. Mellissa Doyle, an assistant from Toowoomba, Queensland, ordered a bouquet to be delivered to her aunt on July 2 last year. The flowers arrived three days late and were "dead or dying", and the foam at the bottom had disintegrated.

Her repeated requests for a refund were ignored, even though she lodged a complaint with Fair Trading. Two months later, her credit card provider reversed the $50 charge.

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"Bloomex was within our budget so we placed the order, but I really wish we had googled the company and done some research," she says.

Bloomex appeared on Fair Trading's complaints register for September, having triggered more than 10 complaints that month. It has launched a new website called Bunches Direct, which specialises in wedding arrangements.

Bloomex customers complain on Facebook about shoddy flowers. © Darbs Darby (Andrew Darby) Bloomex customers complain on Facebook about shoddy flowers. A Bloomex spokeswoman says since flowers are perishable products and an emotional purchase, and given the sheer volume of sales, issues at times arise.

"Our number of complaints has dropped each year," she says.

"Bloomex investigates each and every complaint to offer a quick and courteous resolution, which may include resending a fresh bouquet at our expense, offering a store credit for another selection, or offering a full refund per stated store policies."

Fairfax Media is aware of more than 30 florists across Australia who are owed amounts between $1000 and $50,000 by Ready Flowers.

Rita Sakr was forced to close her kiosk and move her Wildrose Florist business into a garage in Canterbury after Ready Flowers refused to pay her the more than $20,000 owed.

Ready Flowers and Bloomex are trying to attract customers with © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald Ready Flowers and Bloomex are trying to attract customers with "discounted" Valentine's Day products. "I haven't heard from them. They used to send threatening emails, but now nothing, and I'm really angry because I know they've got the money but they're not paying people," she says.

"I urge people to ring up their local florist, because you'll get your money's worth."

The business recently launched a local offshoot called Ready Flowers Express.

A spokesman for Ready Flowers refused to answer Fairfax Media's questions, instead claiming: "The ACCC and NSW Fair Trading have never contacted Ready Flowers in relation to an ongoing investigation."

Don't get ripped-off

  • Shop around and compare prices

  • Check independent product review websites

  • Check consumer agency warnings about certain businesses

  • Check the trader's refund policy before making an order

  • Only use reputable sites and sellers

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