I rarely like to single out a company to complain about them. But there’s this one that has angered me tremendously, and particularly because they appear to enjoy a rather positive rating on marketplace platforms, I think my contrasting experience needs to be shared.
The company is 12BUY. I bought a SanDisk microSD card from them on Lazada. It’s a simple transaction. They seemed to be quite highly rated. Something I made sure to check. They are also an authorised reseller for SanDisk, a brand under WesternDigital. Despite all the good vibes surrounding them, I had the great misfortune to get a terrible experience buying from them.
The microSD card I received was dead-on-arrival (i.e. DOA). That was the least of the problems. Although I was very disappointed, I understand such things happen. However, it is very reasonable for me to expect the seller to make good of the DOA product.
What I want to share in this post is not just about 12BUY’s dishonesty, but also to raise awareness of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act, abbreviated as CPFTA, and commonly known as the “Lemon Law”. I’m not a lawyer, so don’t treat this as legal advice.
First, let me explain why CPFTA mattered here. The microSD card does come with warranty from SanDisk. I could claim the warranty from the manufacturer. In this case, the manufacturer has delegated the claims to their distributor, and which distributor you go to depends on where the seller got the product from. In my case, it would be Convergent Systems.
I have claimed warranties from various agents before, though maybe not Convergent Systems in recent memory. I find it rather inconvenient to have to make my way down to their office at Ubi. I actually don’t mind going to 12BUY, as their office is not inconvenient for me to reach.
Given that it would be easier for me to deal with 12BUY, I basically have two options available: 1) ask for a full refund, or 2) ask for a replacement. (CPFTA also provides for an option for the seller to repair, but I’ll not pursue this since a repair is not realistic in this case.)
So, I set out to contact 12BUY about a refund before I proceeded to claim a return on Lazada. It was a nice thing to do, I thought. I was fully expecting this to be amicably resolved easily and quickly. 12BUY states a 7-day return policy in the product listing on Lazada.
However, this is where things spiralled downhill. 12BUY refused. They told me to “follow the warranty sticker”, which basically tells me to go look for the product’s distributor. I know I can go to Convergent, but I don’t have to. I have a choice, and my choice was to go to the seller.
Now, let me explain CPFTA. CPFTA had been around from earlier times, but the “Lemon Law” amendments to CPFTA came into effect in 2012. You can read about it from MTI’s general advisory. There are several other layman explanations available, such as from CASE, IRB Law and Tembusu Law.
The purpose of CPFTA is to protect consumers against unfair business practices. CPFTA applies in cases such as products of unsatisfactory quality, not matching the advertised description, or not being fit for the purpose advertised or informed to the buyer. A DOA product would, clearly, be the mother of all defect scenarios. This is the problem I have with 12BUY: I received a useless pile of paper, cardboard and plastic, instead of a microSD card that I paid for.
(Note: The microSD card I received was completely dead and undetectable by any microSD reader I tested with. It is not that the capacity was wrong, or slow, or some cosmetic damage, or weird intermittent fault. It was a totally useless piece of plastic that does not have the slightest semblance of functionality of a microSD card.)
CPFTA requires sellers to refund, replace, or repair a defective product. Although the seller may not have been the manufacturer of the product, they are liable to the buyer for any defect. This does not absolve the manufacturer of any warranty claim if the manufacturer had offered any. But, regardless of the warranty from the manufacturer, the seller must remedy the defect with the buyer. More importantly, the seller cannot direct the buyer to take up the defect claim with the manufacturer.
In my case, 12BUY refused to remedy the defect, but directed me to make a warranty claim with Convergent. This is unlawful.
Furthermore, CPFTA provides this consumer protection for up to six months from the purchase (or delivery). Even if it were not a DOA, but if my microSD card were to fail 5 months later, I have the right to seek a remedy from 12BUY then.
I was not happy with how 12BUY handled this. I pointed out that their own seller return policy allowed for a 7-day return. They continued to refused, and I was not getting anywhere. So, I gave them notice to inform an authorised person of their company about my claim, and that I would give them until 12 noon the next day to respond.
I received more responses the next morning that continued to refuse my claim. However, after my 12 noon deadline, someone called me to agree to a replacement for this “special case”. I was very annoyed that they should consider this special, since I was well within my rights to ask for a remedy, let alone this being an extremely reasonable request to make irrespective of CPFTA.
There was some back-and-forth about how they had no stock until late the following week (despite, I checked, being able to still order the exact same microSD card on Lazada with a promised delivery before that date). Yet, they somehow later offered to exchange with a opened and used microSD card that was retuned by another customer who, in their words, “buy wrong product”.
At this point, I was flabbergasted. They had refused to accept my return of a DOA product. Yet, they accepted a return from a customer who bought a wrong item, which would have been entirely the customer’s fault. That’s some seriously twisted logic.
Also, let’s just for a moment remember this. The seller sold an item as brand new, shipped a DOA one, and then offered to replace with an opened one. It is insane.
However, I really wanted to work towards a quick remedy, so I agreed anyway. I would apparently have to come on the same day. Fine.
Then, as luck would have it, they found that the said returned microSD card was also faulty. I don’t know what it is now: did they accept a faulty card, or did they accept a good return that somehow got damaged subsequently. Either way, the fact still remains: 12BUY allowed return from another customer, but refused to accept mine.
At this point, since they were working toward a replacement, they told me to wait till later the next week for new stocks to come. I waited. I checked. Stocks had arrived, and I could go down to collect.
Then, I don’t know why when we are on a good path toward a resolution, they had to tell me that their warranty policies are claimable with them only within 7 days of delivery. I must go to Convergent after 7 days.
It was the 7th day from original product delivery at that point. They informed me 45 mins before their closing time. Realistically, I could only go down to their office the following day, which would be after 7 days.
I was riled up again, the whole reason why it will take more than 7 days is because they had no stock, which is no fault of mine. Besides, I had actually notified them within one hour of delivery, which is really what matters.
Worse, here they have the cheek to tell me about their 7-days warranty, and yet they refused my claim originally. This is a company that is blatantly dishonest.
12BUY clarified that the replacement is still on, but they are trying to tell me this is a one-time benefit for my convenience. Wait, what?
First, they refused to honour their return policy. Then they say there is in fact a 7-day warranty, which I already know about. But now, that it is just one time for my convenience. Which is which? Is there a 7-day return/warranty policy? Or is it something that 12BUY randomly chooses whenever they like to suit their whims and fancy for that moment?
Nevertheless, as I said, I really wanted to work towards a resolution, so I thanked them, even though in my heart I was really very, very, angry with them. I reminded them that they sent me a DOA product, and I merely wanted a remedy, something that I am entitled to under their own return policy as well as CPFTA.
Then, here’s the kicker. An angry exchange followed where 12BUY basically implied that the law does not apply to them. They insist (paraphrased) that their warranty terms prevail over the law. Funny enough, their own warranty terms allow for my claim, which they originally refused to honour.
12BUY had the cheek to tell me the law doesn’t work (the way I expect).
I agree. I will give them that. The law is there to protect customers. Unfortunately, dishonest companies like 12BUY don’t care. The fact is, it is very hard for customers to seek redress because the process is too hard and too arduous. What could I realistically have done? Complain to CASE. Maybe, after a few dozen customers like me bother to write very angry complaints, then CASE may decide there is something worth checking out. It will be a long time and a lot more effort before something meaningful happens to 12BUY.
Despite my repeat appreciation of thanks in my last message to them, 12BUY continued to send an implied threat about what would happen to my future purchase or warranty claims.
My microSD card is only worth $59. I am amgered enough to write this blog post. Maybe I would tell CASE. But, unfortunately, it is not worth my time to pursue further.
As I said earlier, one of my objective of this blog post is to raise awareness of consumer rights. We have unscrupulous sellers like 12BUY, and I’m sure many more much worse than them, whose goal is simply to get the goods out of the door, and then woe be to the buyer if anything should happen an in any form or manner. They absolutely don’t care, they absolutely cannot be bothered. They have your money, that’s all that really matters to them. CPFTA does give you some rights to remedy, regardless of what the seller’s terms and conditions states. You might not get very far, but there’s a chance, and it may be worth trying. The seller, after all, may decide to settle for swindling the lesser-informed consumers, and relent in cases where the buyer is more knowledgeable about remedies they are entitled to.
For what it’s worth, I did eventually get a good replacement microSD card. It now costs me $295, because of my time, effort, transportation, and inconvenience. Maybe another two-times of that amount for the distress and anguish suffered. I did consider writing off the useless piece of plastic that 12BUY sent me, but I felt very indignant about how they handled the matter and needed to make sure they dealt with it properly.
If an authorised person of 12BUY reads this: You are not above the law. Please abide by your own policies. Please treat your customers fairly and respectfully.