Saudi buyers take to Twitter over Alshaya refund rules

Retailer blasted as shoppers call for boycott over new policy on cash refunds
Saudi buyers take to Twitter over Alshaya refund rules
Alshaya counts Debenhams among the brands in its retail portfolio
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Sun 04 Dec 2011 12:19 PM

Twitter users in Saudi Arabia have launched a social media backlash against Gulf retail giant M.H. Alshaya, after the company rolled out new rules to restrict cash refunds to customers.

Staff in five Alshaya stores in Dubai said in September that buyers returning faulty or unwanted goods could no longer receive cash or credit card refunds, but would instead receive store credit under new company-wide rules governing returns.

Buyers have 12 months to spend their store credit - but the ruling ensures money is kept within the conglomerate’s network of shops, which includes Debenhams, H&M and Topshop.

The policy appears to have been implemented in Saudi Arabia, where Twitter users are using the hashtag #noshaya to call for a boycott of the retailer’s stores until the policy is changed.

 “It’s so sad that it’s funny that no one really cares that the Saudi consumer gets ripped off on a daily basis!” said Tweeter @sara_alhaidar. “I told the guy @H&M the policy was silly [and] he said management have their reasons! Really? Is it to make sure no SR [Saudi riyals] leave the register?”

Other Tweeters flagged up how the big brand names owned by Alshaya in the Gulf, such as H&M, offered more favourable returns policies on their own, domestic websites.

A tweet from @Raiyola accused the firm of “hiding behind a silly policy that is equal to theft”.

In an emailed statement to Arabian Business, a spokesperson for Alshaya said:

"Customers returning
faulty or damaged goods are entitled to a full cash refund within the specified
period and with proof of purchase, and we always comply with local laws.

"All
other refunds are credited onto the Alshaya Card to the full value of the
purchase and can then be redeemed at any participating Alshaya outlet over the
following 12 month period."

A report by Dubai’s consumer protection agency in June showed the majority of disputes between retailers and shoppers arise from refunds and exchanges.

According to the DED, complaints from consumers soared in the first quarter of 2011, with 2,900 shoppers registering complaints against retailers, up from 2,300 last year.

Alshaya manages more than 55 brands across the Middle East and operates 2,000 outlets in 15 countries. Brands include a range of household names such as Debenhams, H&M, The Body Shop, Starbucks, Boots, River Island, Oasis and Mothercare.

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