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More customers left out-of-pocket after Click.ie reappears amid ongoing investigation

A consumer watchdog said it is taking customers’ allegations “very seriously”.

Image: Click.ie/Facebook

MORE CUSTOMERS HAVE expressed their anger at being left out-of-pocket and without Christmas presents after ordering phones on website Click.ie.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), a consumer watchdog, issued a warning about the website in early December after it received complaints about delivery and refund issues as well as faulty products.

However, a number of consumers were not aware of the warning and ordered phones from the website in pre-Christmas sales. Click.ie, which sold electronics such as refurbished iPhones at discounted rates, has come under scrutiny several times in recent years amid complaints from customers and former employees.

The most recent version of the website is no longer active and the CCPC said the site has been offline since 20 December.

A previous iteration of Click.ie, the trading name of Cantec Office Solutions, went into voluntary liquidation in April 2018. It had several stores and a number of franchises nationwide when the company was wound up.

In August 2018, TheJournal.ie revealed that a former member of the company’s senior management team was behind a rebooted version of the website. Ray Norton, who was involved in running Cantec Office Solutions, bought the domain name for €10,500 at auction.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners are still looking into the operations of Cantec Office Solutions, the firm behind the original Click.ie.

Norton told TheJournal.ie the latest version of Click.ie was closed in recent weeks “due to tough market conditions”. He said he is working with customers to fulfil outstanding orders, refunds and any outstanding warranty issues.

Dozens of complaints 

A spokesperson for the CCPC confirmed that the organisation is still investigating the activities of Click.ie, saying it is taking customers’ allegations “very seriously”.

The CCPC said it received 72 contacts from consumers about the website in 2019, detailing an alleged range of issues including receiving faulty products, a lack of warranty, issues with non-payment of refunds and products not being delivered.

“We understand that consumers are frustrated. When a consumer buys a product or service they are entitled to expect it to arrive, be as described, fit for purpose and they can expect to be refunded as provided for by the law. Consumers are also entitled to be treated fairly by the trader.

“Given the very nature of E-Commerce investigations they do take time. The CCPC has taken the allegations very seriously and is following definite steps to ensure that the matter is investigated fully. To that end our investigation is ongoing, ” the spokesperson said.

‘Out the door with orders’ 

John Hynes and his wife Eileen bought a refurbished iPhone 8 for €369 as a Christmas present for their son in the Black Friday sale on Click.ie.

John recalled that Click.ie said it was having issues with its Paypal service so customers had to pay via bank transfer. He said he was not aware that a previous version of the company had gone into liquidation and thought Click’s stores were still operational.

The phone was due to be delivered in early December but never arrived. “We thought it was probably just delayed with the Christmas rush and whatever. When 15 December came and there was still no phone we started panicking then,” John said.

click order Source: Eileen Hynes

He said Eileen contacted Click.ie via email and over the phone and she was told the phone would be delivered, but that the company was experiencing delays due to a high number of pre-Christmas orders.

“When the person answered the phone they said ‘We’re out the door here with orders, there’s a backlog and delays, we’re waiting for phones to come in, we’re rushed off our feet’,” John recalled.

TheJournal.ie has seen email correspondence between Click.ie and Eileen.

An email sent from Click.ie, signed off by Ray, to Eileen on 16 December, stated: “We are working hard to get your order out to you, fresh stock arrived today and more on wednesday. it is our intention to have all shipments out by thursday and delivered by registered post on or before friday (sic).

“I thank you for your patience, we are working hard to fulfill all our orders asap (sic)”

16 dec Source: Eileen Hynes

In an email exchange earlier this week, Click.ie told Eileen: “We are working hard to reconcile all outstanding Issues re phone deliveries, refunds and warranty issues. It is our intention to have all these issues sorted by close of business this Friday at the latest.

“We thank you for your patience and re assure (sic) you that getting these sorted this week and closing the company in an orderly manner is our top priority.”

The email thanked Eileen for her patience and asked her to send on her bank details for a refund if she had not done so already. Eileen said was not comfortable giving her bank details and wanted the money sent via bank draft.

13 jan Source: Eileen Hynes

John said the phone was due to come with airpods and the deal had the option of upgrading to an iPhone 10 phone in a year’s time. He said the deal seemed “too good to be true”. 

“When you look back at it, you think ‘Jesus Christ, how could we have been so gullible?’” Hynes said he trusted the brand name as he remembered one of the shops.

“I remember the Click shop, I live in Ratoath and there used to be a Click shop in Ashbourne. I knew they sold refurbished phones. The fact that the website had the name (of the shop I knew), the banners on it, everything looked 100% genuine.”

Trying to get a refund

Barry’s* son was also left without a phone, and down over €500, after ordering an iPhone 8 Plus on Click.ie last summer. Barry said he and his son have been trying to get a refund for over six months but have been unsuccessful to date.

Barry said his son was told last May that Click.ie’s Paypal service was not working and he needed to make a bank transfer to buy the phone.

“He transferred the money and never got the phone,” Barry stated. He said other members of the family previously bought phones from Click.ie and received them without any issues.

When asked if he had seen any complaints about Click.ie online before his son purchased the phone, Barry said: “Absolutely not, if I had he wouldn’t have ordered it.”

He said he and his son contacted Norton on numerous occasions and were given various reasons for the delay.

“At first he told me that he had sold all the phones and was waiting on an order. Then he said the phones he had received were not good enough to send to people, that he had a problem with his supplier, that he had to get other phones.

“Then I said I wanted a refund, about three weeks later in June. He kept giving excuses, he said he was waiting on cash and that he had a problem with his supplier.”

Barry said on one occasion Norton said they delay was due to water damage to a computer.

“He said he was really, really sorry, that there was water damage in his building and his computer was damaged so he lost some order information,” Barry said.

IMG-1904 Messages Barry said he received from Ray Norton. Source: Barry

IMG-1900 Messages Barry said he received from Ray Norton. Source: Barry

Barry is pursuing the issue through the Small Claims Court.

‘Tough market conditions’ 

When asked for comment on the issues raised by customers, and the warning from the CCPC about Click.ie, Norton emailed TheJournal.ie the following statement yesterday afternoon:

“Due to tough market conditions We (sic) took the decision to close the click.ie website some weeks ago, all our customers have been informed directly and we are working closely with them re fulfillment of any outstanding orders, refunds and any outstanding warranty issues.

“This decision affects the Click.ie website only, The company has not closed and we will be honouring the warranty on all phones supplied. Although the website is no longer available customers wishing to contact us can do so by emailing clickgroupsales@gmail.com.” 

Norton did not answer any of the specific queries we asked him in relation to customers being left without phones or refunds. 

The CCPC has urged any customers experiencing problems with Click.ie to contact the watchdog online or by calling 1890 432 432. 

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) submitted a report on Cantec Office Solutions, the firm behind the original Click.ie, by liquidator PJ Lynch to the Garda Economic Crime Bureau last year.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Lynch, a licenced insolvency practitioner, said the investigation is ongoing. Lynch said he is working with the ODCE and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in this regard. 

Lynch advised people to not purchase any products online via a direct bank transfer.

*Barry’s real name has been changed as he wished to remain anonymous.

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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