NBI probes e-commerce firm for fraud | Inquirer News

NBI probes e-commerce firm for fraud

20 customers lodge complaints over undelivered tour packages
/ 01:02 AM June 06, 2012

An online buying firm which offers a wide variety of goods and services, including tour packages, at discount prices is facing scrutiny by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after several customers complained that they had been duped of their money.

As of Tuesday, the NBI Computer Crimes Unit (CCU) said it had received at least 20 complaints for fraud against Cleverbuy, mostly in connection with tour packages that one of its “business partners”—J2 Travel and Tours Co.—failed to deliver on.

According to the complainants, Cleverbuy offered to reimburse their money after the travel agency suddenly closed shop last month.


However, the online buying site also shut down its office at Marvin Plaza Building on Don Chino Roces Avenue in Makati City last month, leaving the complainants with no hope of ever getting their money back.


One of the complainants, a female medical representative from Quezon City who asked not to be named, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that she bought a tour package to Coron, Palawan province, from J2 Travel on the Cleverbuy website for P70,000 in October.

On May 18, she went to the travel agency’s office at V.M. Condominium on Amorsolo Street in Makati City and found it closed.

A man in the building told her to go to the Cleverbuy office instead, but she said she waited until she received a text message advising her to go back to the travel agency on June 1, 4 and 5 to get a reimbursement.

“I figured that since the J2 Travel office was already closed, I should proceed to Cleverbuy since I was told that all problems with J2 would be settled by Cleverbuy. But when I got to their office on May 29, the office was already closed. Cleverbuy had a seventh floor office that had also closed down,” she told the Inquirer.

Another complainant, a 30-year-old housewife from Marikina City, told the Inquirer that she was lured into buying a Boracay tour package for P34,000—a price that was advertised as 70 percent lower than the original.

She added that when she went to the J2 Travel office to make her bookings, she found it closed so she went to the Cleverbuy office on May 21 where a staff member  asked her to write down the names of her traveling companions.


“I asked the staff member if Cleverbuy would be making the [travel] arrangements and would be confirming the flight, and the employee said yes,” she said. She was also given the customer hotline number and another number to call for updates.

However, when she tried calling the two numbers later, no one answered her calls.

Another Cleverbuy customer told the NBI that he paid P110,000 for a package tour to Palawan from J2 Travel on the Cleverbuy website.

The Inquirer tried to call the J2 Travel office through the numbers listed on its website but the phones just kept on ringing. There was also no response when the Inquirer dialed the contact number listed on the Cleverbuy website.

As of Tuesday, the website was still up although there were only two deals being advertised—one from YJC Beauty and Slim Center offering treatment for stretch marks and the other, a facial pampering package from Californian Bloom Aesthetic Institute & Medical Spa.

The Inquirer called Californian Bloom’s Quezon City branch where it learned from a staffer that the company had stopped honoring deals brought from Cleverbuy since last week.

Asked why, the staffer said that they had yet to receive payment from the online buying site for the services they rendered to customers.

However, Dr. Mei Ying Ho, owner of YJC Beauty, said that they would continue to honor packages bought from Cleverbuy  although she acknowledged that this would mean losses for her clinic.

“We will serve them although we have no way of knowing whether we will be able to collect payment from Cleverbuy. Kawawa naman ang mga customers,” she told the Inquirer.

According to her, the online buying site owes her more than P100,000.

“We have a good relationship with Cleverbuy so I did not collect payment from them [for previous packages]. I guess I trusted them too much,” she said.

Ho said she learned about Cleverbuy’s financial problems only two days ago.

“I had no reaction because I didn’t know how to react,” she added.

NBI-CCU head Migdonio Congzon Jr., meanwhile, told the Inquirer that they were collating all complaints against the company.

“We have yet to validate the incorporators of the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But we discovered that the company was registered only in December last year although it has been operating even before that,” he said.

Congzon told the Inquirer that it was the first time the NBI had received complaints about an online buying site.

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Those who want to file a complaint against Cleverbuy can contact the NBI Anti-Fraud and Action Division at 5238231 to 38 locals 3491 or 3456, or the Computer Crimes Division at locals 3454 or 3455.

TAGS: Cleverbuy, E-Commerce, fraud, Metro, NBI

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