KUALA LUMPUR: Online businesses have seen a surge in activity in the past few years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when people were forced to remain at home due to the movement control order.
However, accompanying increased orders, online vendors have also been hit by a new phenomenon called “joy buyers”, those who order products using the COD (cash on delivery) option but reject the items upon arrival, just for fun.
In 2023, Malaysia eCommerce Statistics and Trends reported the number of Malaysians buying goods through the internet had grown 10.2% in 2021 to hit 14.43 million.
Statistics on the number of transactions made by joy buyers are unavailable as such matters are usually not reported to the authorities, several vendors told theSun.
Online cakes and pastries seller Nadia Bakthiar, 37, said: “As more businesses shift their operations online, the competition is becoming fiercer, and the race to stand out in the crowded marketplace has become more challenging than ever.
“Once orders are ready to be sent, I will confirm with customers who prefer the COD payment method and the delivery details. Many of the customers promise to make payment upon receiving their orders.
“Almost every week, I will receive four to five orders returned by food delivery riders. I lost almost RM2,500 from 38 orders rejected by joy buyers during the Hari Raya festival. The losses include cost of raw ingredients, helpers’ wages and tips for delivery riders.”
Nadia said the efforts of business owners like her become pointless when joy buyers order for fun and reject the goods upon delivery.
A part-time student selling clothing, Shalaeni Poobalan, 24, said she struggles to deal with joy buyers as she finds ways to provide the same level of customer experience one can get from brick-and-mortar textile stores.
“Despite advances in technology, it can be challenging to replicate the in-store experience that many customers crave. Customers cannot touch and feel the products before making an online purchase, leading some to hesitate before completing their COD payments.
“The COD concept is becoming popular among consumers as it gives them additional time to fund the full payment. Returning the parcels without providing proper reasons is affecting vendors like me.”
Shalaeni said customers should be responsible for their decision to buy online, adding that it would alleviate pressure on online business vendors who are just trying to make a living.
Lawyer Joshua K.M. Wu from P.E. Lim Advocates and Solicitors said: “If joy buyers are returning goods fraudulently or dishonestly, vendors can lodge a police report.
“Whoever by deceiving any person – whether or not such deception was the sole or main inducement – fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, commits a crime of cheating under Section 415(a) of the Penal Code.”
However, Wu said it would not amount to cheating if a buyer genuinely rejects the goods.
“Online shopping platforms could bear the cost of shipping to mitigate the issues that arise from joy buying, or disable or ban the COD payment method for individuals or accounts that regularly or show a pattern of rejecting goods that are to be paid via COD.
“Business vendors could also ban accounts that regularly show a pattern of rejecting goods ordered via COD.
“Vendors selling on online shopping platforms could consider reporting the accounts to the online shopping platform or removing the option of accepting payment via COD.
“Vendors selling outside online shopping platforms could keep a record of individuals who have previously rejected goods to be paid via COD, and blacklist them or not offer such a payment option to those individuals,” he said.
Before taking legal action against joy buyers, Wu said vendors should keep records of individuals or accounts that have previously rejected goods to be paid via COD.
Vendors should take a screenshot of all communication between them and joy buyers, as the interaction could be useful in proving fraudulent intent.
He said if a vendor lodges a police report against a joy buyer and the matter is investigated, both parties could be called up by police to provide a statement.
“If the attorney-general decides to charge a joy buyer, the person will have criminal proceedings initiated against him and the vendor may have to be prepared to be one of the prosecution’s witnesses if the case proceeds to trial,” Wu said.