Flipkart had been building the hype for its so-called Big Billion Day sale for over 2 weeks. I as million others was waiting for the so-called auspicious October 6. Auspicious as apparently the Flipkart founders started the company from an apartment numbered ‘610’. They definitely did a great job in getting people hooked to the whole drama. TV adverts to news paper reports on them employing over 5000 extra people for this one Big day and personal mails from the Bansal duo.
Come October 6, the mega sale started at 8 am. Offers even someone with no money could have bought. From pen drives for Rs. 1 to mobiles and tablets for Rs. 100. The had it all to make it a blockbuster. But then if only world was perfect. The products on knocked down prices made appearance for a few seconds. I read it they had been planning for the mega day for months, to see a little or no stock on offer.
Read on twitter that people were unable to even place orders due to technical glitches other than the products being out of stock. I managed to get my hands on a deal I thought made my day. A Samsung LED TV worth Rs. 73000 for Rs. 47950 (included a trade in of my old TV). A difference of over Rs. 25000. Who would had let go such a deal? The order was placed at about 2 pm. Received an email from Flipkart at 4. Thought was an order confirmation mail but found out it was a mail cancelling the Order. The mail gave the reason for cancellation which left me baffled.
|Greetings from Flipkart.com!Thank you for your order OD000943973783348200 . You made an excellent choice by deciding to purchase one of the top selling products on Flipkart. However, due to high demand for this item and in order to provide all customers an equal opportunity to avail this great deal we had to cancel the following items in your Order.|
|The amount of Rs. 47950.00 will be refunded back to your bank account/card by Tuesday, 14 Oct’14.|
So as you see, it was cancelled such that other people could have been given equal opportunity to avail the so-called “great deal”. I couldn’t understand what it meant. I didn’t place a bulk order which would had deprived others of the great deal. An order of one unit was cancelled so that someone else could get the opportunity to buy it? And for the sake of equality?? Wonder what equality means to Flipkart and the Bansals??? In my profession such is an act of inequality or discrimination or bias. It didn’t end here, a little after the cancellation the same TV was being sold for a higher price. I would had understood that they ran out of stock and cancelled. They were well in stock but wanted to sell the TV at a higher price.
I thought about the whole scheme of things, got to know of a few more people whose orders were cancelled after the payment was made by them. So Flipkart got my money against an order which was cancelled at their discretion, the money would be refunded after like 10 days, remains with them free of cost. They do not pay any interest or cost of raising the money from people like me and retains it for 10 days. Thinking about it, they got a cost free fund for 10 days, sort of short time debt but without any interest. Interestingly this collection would run into crores getting to know the number of people whose orders were cancelled after receiving money from them.
The entire issue was covered by DNA in an article “Flipkart draws wrath on its big billion day as it cancels order within hours”
Details of similar instances was compiled by @Datoism in his post “The Flipkart Scam”
In a perfect world the number of a particular product on offer would had been mentioned and the moment it ran out of stock it would had shown the availability as out of stock and no further orders would had been taken. The orders would had been on a first cum first serve basis. Everyone takes their chance and if they got lucky they would had succeeded in buying the product. But then this did not happen. Either they continued to show availability even though the product went out of stock or the deal was just an eyewash to attract people to get money from them without the intention of selling in such offer. Surprisingly, the consumers had no option to cancel the purchase, but they had the option which they exercised without any cogent reason.
The debate has been going on for a while on the effect of e-commerce on small stores. I am not against the whole e-commerce uprising, at the end it is for the benefit of the consumers. But then why regulate the small stores, why do adverts to make consumer aware while buying stuff from the small stores, whereas the e-commerce giants get to trade without any regulation to the detriment of the small traders. There are no regulation in India to check the sales being made by the e-commerce players. There is no regulation on their receipt of money and its refund. There is nothing to bind them to make offers which can be fulfilled. How is it different from people who sell stuff to increase height or make hair grow? Knowing it can’t be possible people get duped in them, same as getting duped into an offer which was probably impossible for Flipkart to fulfil. Isn’t that clearly illegal?
The whole incident calls for serious checks and balances. If e-commerce is for the interest of the consumers then there is a serious need for them to be regulated. The consumers need to be equally educated about the supposed harm they can be inflicted.
I, am not concerned about my order or the money. I know they cannot escape with my money, but the larger issue needs a serious address. The whole modus operandi is in the nature of an Economic Offence. It is clearly a misrepresentation made to the people at large and misappropriation of their money.
I, understand Flipkart achieved a fabulous sale on the Big Day, which was known after the curiosity created, but it will be interesting to know how many orders were cancelled by them after having received the money. How much money was received from such orders? If their intentions are genuine they should come out with these figures and not just bask in the glory of their achievements.
I, as a lawyer, intend to take up the issue, be it by representing to the Economic Offence Wing or RBI or a PIL for a proper regulation to control the misrepresentation and the loss caused to consumers. Surprisingly Flipkart is silent on the entire issue even though it being raised by hundreds on twitter. Well, any of you that wants to join the drive may contact me.