Ask Susan: When Facebook deals go bad

We're buying and selling via the social network more than ever before - but what can you do when it goes wrong?
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We're buying and selling via the social network more than ever before - but what can you do when it goes wrong?

Is there any recourse when you've been ripped off on a Facebook buy and sell page?

Jo, Wellington

Facebook is becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell goods. 

Thomas Biss, a lawyer at Henderson Reeves, said an online transaction was no different from any other.

"It is still a contract between a buyer and a seller.  If the seller misrepresents something then there is probably a remedy in the Disputes Tribunal.  In fact because it all takes place online there is more likely to be written evidence of what was said and promised than in a simple face to face sale," he said.

"If the seller is running a business selling goods online then the Consumer Guarantees Act would also apply.  This gives a remedy for any 'misleading or deceptive conduct'. "

He said when it was a scam, such as when the goods never existed, it was a crime.

"The problem will be tracking the thief down.  But it would be possible.  There will be a bank account number and a Facebook account.  I would think if it was worth it you could find out who the individual behind an account was and get orders for repayment.  But the issue would be whether it was worth it.  That will depend on how much has been lost.  A $10 t-shirt wont be worth chasing.  A $20,000 car might be."

Netsafe recommended people get in touch with it if they were caught out.

A spokeswoman said they would need an address for the seller if they were to take the case to the Disputes Tribunal. "If the Facebook profile or page is still active you should report it to Facebook. You can also report Facebook ads that are not genuine," she said. "Leave a review so others know about your experience before choosing to make a purchase. If you have the phone number of the address of the scammer, you may be able to make a complaint to your local police station – but please note that the police may not contact the person as this is generally viewed as a civil complaint."

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* Do you have a question, complaint or concern? Contact susan.edmunds@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

 - Stuff

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