Clothing store Shekou risks misleading shoppers about refund rights
Retailer’s no-refund policy riles customers.
Clothing retailer Shekou is attracting complaints from unhappy customers who’ve waited months for items to turn up and been told by the store they’re not entitled to refunds.
Christchurch resident Taylor bought clothes worth $170 from the company's website in November. When her order finally arrived in February, a $34 dress she’d paid for wasn’t included.
When we contacted Shekou, co-director Brianna Ellin didn’t answer our questions about why Taylor hadn’t been refunded for the missing dress and blamed Covid-19 for delivery delays.
The company eventually gave Taylor a refund for the dress two days before we went to print. It also refunded the cost of her other purchases and apologised for the inconvenience caused.
Several other Shekou customers we’ve heard from have also reported waiting for months to get products from the store.
Twenty-two complaints about the brand have been made to the Commerce Commission. Most have been about goods not being delivered, a commission spokesperson said.
“No cancellations, changes or refunds”
Shekou heavily promotes its products on social media and has 800,000 followers on TikTok.
The retailer’s terms and conditions state customers can’t cancel orders and get a refund once their payment’s been processed.
But we think that misleads consumers about their rights.
If you buy a product from a retailer and it doesn’t get it to you on time – or within a reasonable time if no date’s been agreed – you’re entitled to cancel and request your money back. You don’t have to keep waiting.
Shekou’s terms also claimed it wouldn’t replace faulty items if clothing had been worn. However, that’s at odds with its obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
If an item of clothing is faulty – and you haven’t caused the fault – the store must repair or replace it or provide a refund. When the fault is major, it’s up to you to decide whether you want your money back or a replacement item.
Retailers that mislead consumers about their refund rights breach the Fair Trading Act and risk a fine of up to $600,000.
Ellin claimed the company met "all of [its] obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act".
More than a month after we contacted Shekou, it amended the clause in its terms and conditions relating to the return of faulty items. However, no changes were made to its cancellation policy.
Shekou’s online ads promote the brand as “ethical and sustainable”. Its mission is to “make sustainability the norm”.
“Eco friendly” tennis skirts, advertised as made from recycled plastic bottles, are among its offerings on TikTok.
However, when we visited Shekou’s Auckland store, we found only one item that claimed to be made from recycled fabric.
At the company’s pop-up store in Wellington, we asked a sales rep which items were made from sustainably sourced fabrics. “I don’t think any of them are,” she said.
One garment we bought didn’t have a fibre content label, so shoppers couldn’t tell what fabric they were getting.
Fibre content labels are required on new clothing. Companies can be fined up to $30,000 if they don’t display them.
Ellin claimed “nearly 30 percent” of Shekou’s products were made from organic or recycled materials.
“Our stores contain only a small percentage of our product offering, so this will vary depending on which products are in store,” she said.
The company claimed fibre content labels were included on its products “with the exception of some sample and vintage clothing”.
Behind the brand
It’s not the first time Ellin’s business practices have come in for criticism.
In 2017, Ellin and Joshua Mittendorff (a joint director and shareholder of Shekou) raised $76,000 on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to create the Portapresso. They claimed it would be “the world’s first truly portable espresso machine”.
However, the 300 people who contributed money are still waiting for the product to go into production. Ellin and Mittendorff said they’re refunding backers who no longer want to wait.
Ellin is also the director and sole shareholder of clothing company Luna and Lucifer. Comments on the brand's Facebook page complained of poor customer service and delays in getting products. The company’s website is no longer online. Ellin said it “rectified any issues with consumers”.
The Commerce Commission has received three complaints about Portapresso and one about Luna and Lucifer.
If you’ve bought items from Shekou and it’s failed to deliver them within the expected time, you can cancel your order and ask for your money back. You don’t have to keep waiting.
If the store refuses and you paid by credit or debit card, contact your bank about a chargeback – a refund to your card. Alternatively, you can file a claim for a refund in the Disputes Tribunal.