Hundreds of Groupon customers out of pocket

How to protect yourself when buying from online daily deals websites and make sure your offers are redeemed or refunded.

Hundreds of Australian consumers are claiming they’ve been left unhappy and out of pocket after purchasing deals from online voucher company Groupon – that couldn’t be redeemed or refunded.

Katherine Temple from the Consumer Action Law Centre revealed what to look out for when using similar websites.

TODAY EXTRA: Katherine, first of all, can you tell us exactly what these consumers are claiming?

KATHERINE: Many Australian users claim they’ve not been able to redeem their vouchers or get a refund. They say they were repeatedly told by merchants there was no availability every time they tried to book various hotels, activities and salon appointments. Consumers then reported the issue to Groupon, who directed their complaints back to the merchants, who weren’t able to resolve the matter and the vouchers eventually expired.

TODAY EXTRA: So Groupon have accepted payment for products or services they haven’t been able to deliver on. Legally, are they in the wrong here?

KATHERINE: Yes – it’s actually illegal across all states of Australia for a trader to accept payment for products or services and not supply them within a reasonable period.

TODAY EXTRA: Is there anything that Groupon has tried to do to rectify these issues?

KATHERINE: In response to the claims, a Groupon spokesperson told they would assist customers with any redemption or booking issues however they need to be contacted before the voucher expires. “The expiry date is clearly marked on the voucher, and we urge customers to check and make note of this as validity periods can vary,” said a spokesperson.

TODAY EXTRA: There are so many of these kinds of websites out there. What should we be looking out for when buying deals online?

KATHERINE: Check online for any feedback or reviews on the group buying or daily deals company. Be aware of what products and services are being offered and what is not included in the deal.

Check the terms and conditions of sales on group buying websites carefully, including expiry dates on vouchers and check with the website to see if they give refunds if the service provider goes out of business before vouchers are redeemed. Finally be prepared for delays in making bookings. Group sales can create a lot of demand. Book early to avoid high demand near the expiry date.

TODAY EXTRA: Finally, for those Groupon customers who have been left out of pocket, what action can they take from here?

KATHERINE: Always check the expiry date and conditions on your voucher. Contact Groupon or the business to explain the problem and the outcome you want and always consider getting independent legal advice and taking your claim to your local tribunal.

* In highlighting particular offers we are not making specific recommendations as this article does not cover all available products and may not compare all features relevant to you. Any advice provided is general in nature and does not take account of your needs, objectives or financial situation. Individuals should consider their own circumstances, and if in doubt seek appropriate advice, before proceeding.