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#1 zanorias

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 10:45 AM

I've had a customer complaint through from my seller and for various reasons I strongly suspect the consumer has fabricated the complaint to claim compensation from the seller. I know I can't really make accusations and will have to conduct the investigation and formally respond etc which is a pain to be taking the time to do so and affecting our complaint trends if it is indeed fabricated.

 

Does anyone know of any law protecting the seller/manufacturer against made up claims? Of course it can be difficult to actually prove and not worth the hassle of making those accusations but I suspect this specific consumer does this regularly. Just curious. TIA



#2 EagleEye

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 12:06 PM

Hi, Zanorias,

 

If you really think the complaint is a fabricated one and this customer was doing this before, you really have to involve into the issue. Initiate a formal active investigation by politely asking/seeking real proofs from the customer and/or paying a visit into the site(I do not know the exact scenario you are dealing with). Rather than making a passive responding to this, dig into the deep giving a strong message to the customer that he might get caught red handed once again if he doing this. As you said, blind accusations won't help to keep the relationship smooth and this way of indirect method may help. Make a plan that suits your case. 

 

Best wishes..



#3 pHruit

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 12:09 PM

If they're trying to obtain something from you (free goods, money etc) or to cause you actual or potential financial loss then yes, this would be fraud by false representation.

It looks like you're in the UK, so the Fraud Act 2006 is probably the place to start.

 

Sadly such false complaints are not as rare as any of us would like, particularly at consumer/retail level. I've certainly seen a few despite limited involved having primarily worked in B2B environments, and I know of many companies that just build in a "wastage" allowance because they know that they'll get some number of spurious issues, although not necessarily outright fabrications.

 

It is worth investigating as (a) for your complaint record you can legitimately document it but not include it in the scoring if it is unfounded/baseless, and (b) you may be pleasantly surprised and find that you can disprove it. Some false claims are difficult to fully prove, but not everyone making these types of complaints is a genius and I've certainly seen some fairly dim attempts ;)

 

Conversely, it can mean that some businesses are very bullish about complaints and automatically take a point of outright denial. Obviously this benefits them in terms of potential liability, but it isn't great from a customer service perspective. It can certainly be a very difficult balance to strike!



#4 zanorias

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 12:34 PM

Thanks EagleEye and pHruit for your comments, and yep I'm in the UK.

 

To elaborate the scenario, I work for the manufacturer of a cooked meat product, we supply to a retailer who sells to public. The retailer always provide a small financial compensation to anyone who complains. In this case the consumer sent an email to the retailer, asking for compensation, mentioning Trading Standards, wanted a prompt response sent to their email, raised a generic issue "beef is chewy", said they had it last December, but send a photo of a sealed product box taken inside the retail store, and the batch of that box in the photo was produced by us earlier this month - so they've made an obvious mistake in claiming they ate a product in December that hadn't even been made at the time.

 

I've got enough evidence to conclude it "unjustified", but if there is a way to deter the consumer from making bogus claims to other companies that would be a bonus as they've received money from the retailer and caused me to have to investigate and respond. I'll have a closer look into the Fraud Act 2006 and confer - cautiously - with the retailer. The retailer is already asking the consumer to confirm the dates of eating and the photo so hopefully soon we will have some decent evidence to support my suspicions.


Edited by zanorias, 28 February 2019 - 12:38 PM.


#5 pHruit

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 12:50 PM

I made a (legitimate!) complaint to a retailer about a foreign body a few years ago and the default response was "here have some loyalty scheme points" (cash, in effect), so I explained that I didn't want any sort of compensation but would like them to investigate just to make sure their co-packers controls are doing what they're supposed to. Took multiple attempts to convince them to even provide an address to which I could send the offending item, which they then lost for several months. I've no idea what ever came of the investigation - after about six months I got bored of trying to find out what was going on, but by that time they'd taken the "here, have some loyalty points, please go away" approach several times.

I therefore suspect that the retailer in your case will just chalk this up as a cost of doing business, even if that isn't entirely correct.

 

The threat of a report to trading standards and/or involvement of lawyers is a classic technique to provoke a more significant response. I've only had direct experience of one customer following through with the latter - silly chap wasted his money paying his lawyer to write a letter that didn't change the legal position.

 

It sounds like your case falls into the basic numpty class of a very poor fabrication with no attention to detail, so yes, I'd await the confirmation on the dates and then advise the retailer that the conclusion of your investigation is that the complaint is unfounded.

Even if the dates did match, one would have to wonder why they've photographed the pack before they opened it, and therefore before they knew that there was a problem...



#6 Scampi

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 01:24 PM

SOme people are just horrid.....always trying to get something for nothing..............i saw a video on the news last week of a woman pulling out a hair and putting it on her meal to try and get it free.....what she didn't know was there was a camera that caught the whole thing................so now the entire country knows what she looks like and the kind of person she is!  Karma....will win everytime

 

I too have complained to a retailer (plastic thread in rte meat at a national chain) but did just so they were aware (because in this industry we all know things can and do happen), the store actually called me at home and gave me a gift card

 

I never did hear back, but again, was just wanting to let the company know so a child didn't get it and choke


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#7 SQFconsultant

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 03:01 PM

Here's fun -- I worked years ago as a Quality Assurance Field Manager for two hotel chains in the US.  Both had their call centers in Phoenix and the supervisor that day told me he was in the Howard Johnson room and handled a call with one of his agents - the caller had a complaint about a bad stay at a resort property in Orlando.  Standard practice was to send a certicate for a free nights stay and comp the folio for the bad stay.  

 

10 minutes after handling the complaint and ordering the send out and credit to the account he was on the other side of the wall in the Ramada section and helped an agent handle a compliant.... yup, same person - same thing, just a different hotel.  The send out for the one was canceled, the charge reversed and the person banned.

 

In your situation you may have a fabrication and it would behove you to dig down to protect reputation. Every action has a consequence - some good, some bad and consumers should understand it is not always going to go their way.

 

You need proof from the consumer, doctor visits, packaging sample, costs involved for the consumer and informing them that you have a standard practice of alerting your legal firm and then inform the consumer that once you have the evidence they are supplying that you will also be contacting their local law enforcement to just let them know what is going on.

 

It is normally the first one - having to provide backup, packaging, doctor visit info etc that will do away with the complaint, or the second one the law firm contact that will put it to rest -- we have seen three done away with when law enforcement was going to be contacted.

 

I do not know about the UK but in the states a food manufacturer could take a number of ways to bring someone up on charges for false representation, defamation/slander of a company/person.  If you can get the consumer to put the complaint into writing and send that to you with their evidence then if baseless, and since it is false -- bingo, you get USPS mail fraud as well.

 

Best to you.


Kind regards,

 

Glenn Oster
 
GOC GROUP / +1.800.793.7042 / Food - Food Packaging - Food Storage/DC

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#8 zanorias

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 08:15 PM

It sounds like your case falls into the basic numpty class of a very poor fabrication with no attention to detail, so yes, I'd await the confirmation on the dates and then advise the retailer that the conclusion of your investigation is that the complaint is unfounded.
Even if the dates did match, one would have to wonder why they've photographed the pack before they opened it, and therefore before they knew that there was a problem...


Indeed, some very basic errors made which do make me wonder whether she is a seasoned complainer or just trying it on. Considering the photo of the box in the store of a batch that was produced after she apparently ate it, plus the fact that this retailer is very quick to give out a £5 compensation voucher to customers who complain - I'm wondering if the customer in this case was advised by a friend "I complained and got a voucher, you should do the same", so she went into the store, took a photo of the box without actually buying it and made a vague claim without considering the flaws including shelf life.

Fortunately the retailer must have the same suspicion as they've told the customer that they didn't sell the product on the date she claimed, and asked her to provide the reception transaction number. Although it's feasible someone wouldn't still have a receipt for food they bought months ago, I bet the "customer" realises she's been caught out and won't be replying to the retailer.

#9 Deborah.Coetzee

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Posted 09 March 2019 - 02:33 PM

Hi 

 

Sometimes starting a communication with "I am concerned to see that you have had yet another unfortunate incident with one of our products (or a food product) ....."  gives them pause to continue and often they just quietly drop the issue ..... worth a try!



#10 zanorias

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Posted 09 March 2019 - 09:55 PM

Hi Deborah,

This was this first we had head from them, and we've since found they had copied a complaint template frok a website and completed it with generic and - in their error - implausible info. Unsurprisingly we have not heard from her again






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