E-commerce surge leads to three-fold jump in consumer complaints in May

Complaints centred around cashback problems and non-compliance with agreements, Dubai Economy says

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 12, 2020.  Sunday morning overcast and slightly foggy skies on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA

A surge in online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a 228 per cent jump in consumer complaints about e-commerce, according to government data.

Dubai Economy, the body tasked with the development of the emirate’s economy, received 1,404 consumer complaints related to e-commerce deals in May, more than double the 428 complaints it received in the same month last year, according to the Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection (CCCP) department.

"The noticeable rise in consumer complaints on the e-commerce sector shows the change in consumer behaviour during the past month, and their preference to purchase through e-commerce websites due to the current conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially as many business owners began to sell their products online," Ahmad Al Zaabi, director of consumer protection in the CCCP department, said.

Retailers intensified efforts to boost their online offerings during the pandemic in a bid to attract more customers. Globally, e-retailers such as Amazon have seen sales soar, while brick-and-mortar stores without an online presence have had to adapt quickly or face a significant decline in business.

The types of complaints consumers have lodged with the CCCP were varied, with 27 per cent related to cashback issues, 26 per cent centred on non-compliance with agreement terms and 13 per cent about failure to comply with after-sale services, Mr Al Zaabi said.

Mr Al Zaabi also called on website owners to monitor the time required to deliver products in order to avoid complaints on late deliveries.

Most of the e-commerce complaints in May were submitted through Dubai Economy's smart channels, with 64 per cent made through the ‘Dubai Consumer’ app and 30 per cent through the consumerrights.ae website. The remaining 6 per cent were lodged through the call centre, Dubai Economy said.

UAE consumers have shifted their internet search and buying behaviours amid the lockdown to contain the coronavirus, a trend that could become the “new normal”, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

A surge in searches for "groceries", "online courses", "telecommuting" and "Ikea" were reported in March and April, with a spike in "staycation" searches in May, a Dubai Chamber report citing UAE Google Trends data found.