Consumer watchdog Which? believes third-party sellers are exploiting the online retailer’s highly competitive search ranking system, which favours items with high sales volumes and good reviews, by sending products to people who hadn’t ordered them.
More than one million UK households may have fallen victim to a scam known as “brushing” after receiving mystery Amazon parcels they didn’t order.
Consumer group Which? believes third-party sellers are exploiting Amazon’s highly competitive search ranking system for products – which favours items with high sales volumes and good reviews – by sending items to unsuspecting people and then falsely logging it as a genuine purchase.
The watchdog, which surveyed 1,839 UK adults between 13 and 17 August, said it was concerned at the amount of households who said they received an Amazon package at their home address that they did not order and was not sent by a known person.
It found that 4% of respondents – or, scaled up nationally, an estimated 1.1 million people – said they or someone in their household had received such a package.Advertisement
Of the respondents who received a mystery parcel, 63% said they kept them, 28% threw them away and 16% gave them away.
Householders have reported receiving items such as magnetic eyelashes, eyelash serum, toys for pets and children, Bluetooth accessories, an iPhone case, a Frisbee, medical gloves and other items that are cheap to ship in large volumes.
Some sellers take the scam a step further by creating a fake Amazon account linked to the recipient’s address to “purchase” the item themselves and then leave a positive fake review.
Which? said it had heard from victims who had been inundated with items, from cheap electronics to beauty products, that they knew nothing about turning up at their door.
The scam raised question marks over how their personal details were found as well as the environmental impact of the unwanted items.
Which? director of policy and advocacy Rocio Concha said: “Consumers should be able to trust that the popularity and reviews of products they are buying online are genuine, so it is troubling that third-party sellers appear to be using brushing scams to game Amazon Marketplace.
“Amazon needs to do more to thoroughly investigate instances of brushing scams and take strong action against sellers that are attempting to mislead consumers.”
Amazon said: “Orchestrated by bad actors who procure names and addresses from various external sources, ‘brushing’ is a scheme affecting all online marketplaces.
“We estimate that less than 0.001% of Amazon orders are impacted by brushing as Amazon has robust processes in place to prevent abuse from impacting our reviews, search rankings and other customer experiences.
“We will never stop improving the sophistication of abuse prevention in our store, and we will continue to take the appropriate enforcement actions, including support for law enforcement organisations in their efforts to hold bad actors accountable.
“We strongly encourage those who have received unsolicited packages to report them to our customer services team so that we can investigate fully and take the appropriate actions.”
Government urged to build and protect crude palm oil industry
Chief Commercial Officer of the Ghana Oil Palm Development Company, Gangadhar Shetty, has urged government to come up with policies that will build the local crude palm oil industry’s capacity, as doing so will make the country become self-sufficient and an exporter of refined palm oil products.
He said the industry is happy government has reversed the 50 percent benchmark policy that brought it to near-collapse. However, he said, the discussion should now be focused on policies which will make the industry robust enough to produce sufficient amounts to satisfy local demand and export the excess, as this will end imports of refined palm oil products.
“We need to understand that the benchmark policy is not good for the manufacturing industry. The same way the refineries are looking at benchmark values as a threat to them, they are also a threat to crude palm oil manufacturers.
“So I would say the attention should be given more to crude palm oil production, because at this moment Ghana has a shortage of crude palm oil but we have adequate installed capacity for refineries. The main focus should be how to build and improve capacity of local crude palm oil manufacturers to become more productive.
“If we increase crude palm oil production we will not need to import refined oil, because it is from the crude oil that we get refined oil,” he said in an interview with the B&FT.
Mr. Shetty further stated that focusing on building the crude oil palm industry’s capacity will also create massive employment opportunities and make the currency stable; adding that if such help is not given to the sector, local refineries cannot produce to their maximum – and this will encourage imports of refined vegetable oils, thereby creating unfavourable competition and weakening the local currency.
“Refineries can be put up in just six months and will be ready for production. But if you want to produce 450,000 tonnes of crude oil you need 120,000 to 150,000 hectares of plantation, and that size of plantation can create direct and indirect employment for more than 600,000 people.
“If you look at the international price of crude palm oil, there is just about a US$70 to US$80 difference between the refined oil. So if you are producing the crude, you only need to add small value and you will stop imports of refined oil. It has the advantage of import substitution, and will save us a lot of FX while creating employment – especially for the rural folk,” he said.
He added that government must emulate the example of Nigeria, where its government has put in deliberate policies to protect and grow the oil palm industry by supporting manufacturers with soft-loans and slapping high duties on imported crude palm oil.
“Let’s try to compare ourselves to Nigeria. Nigeria is trying to give single-digit interest loans to the oil palm sector. Aside from that, Nigeria regulates the crude palm oil sector. You cannot just import crude palm oil; you need approval of the central bank of Nigeria, and they will not have access to forex from the central bank. They have to get it from the open market. So this means government is trying to give some level of protection to the sector.
“And if you look at duty on imported crude palm oil in Nigeria, it is 35 percent; but here in Ghana, it is 5 percent duty. So, it is important that the benchmark be removed and duty on imported crude increased,” he said.
Over GH¢200,000 lost daily – Toll collectors petition Parliament to reverse ban
Several toll workers across the country on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, staged a demonstration protesting against the decision of the government to cease the collection of tolls.
The aggrieved workers stated that the decision has rendered them jobless, a situation that is affecting them and their dependents.
To them, the directive by the Minister of Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta was terrible.
The Minister who came under fire issued a directive instruction that the collection of road and bridge tolls at all locations nationwide should be halted effective from 12am on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
His directive came after the Minister presented the budget and disclosed that the collection of tolls would be scrapped.
But the aggrieved workers are not happy and want the government to reconsider the decision.
They marched to parliament and presented a petition to the legislative body.
“They promised to reassign us to other jobs. But we don’t trust them on that. If there were jobs available, they would have given us new jobs. The Minister is a liar and we are disappointed in him, one of the workers said.
Another alleged that they have not been paid over the past four months.
The Secretary of the Ghana toll workers group, Edward Duncan, presented a petition to Parliament on behalf of the group.
The petition was received by the Deputy Majority Chief Whip, Habib Iddrisu, and Deputy Minority Chief Whip Ahmed Ibrahim.
The two leaders said the petition had come at a time parliament was still considering the budget statement.
They assured them their concerns would be addressed.
Meanwhile, the leader of the workers, Mr. Ernest Antwi speaking on Nyankonton Mu Nsem said the work of toll workers generated a lot money for the country.
He said Ghana is losing several millions of Ghana cedis.
He said their work generates more than GH¢200,000 daily and the directive from the Minister has deprived Ghana of some revenue.
1.75% E-levy: Government in talks with telcos – Ken Ofori-Atta
During the presentation of the 2022 budget dubbed ‘Agyenkwa budget’, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta introduced a new 1.75% levy on all electronic transactions such as Mobile money transactions, remittances and other electronic transactions.
Fees and charges of government services have also been increased by 15%.
Ofori-Atta in his budget presentation to Parliament explained, “It is becoming clear there exists an enormous potential to increase tax revenues by bringing into the tax bracket, transactions that could be best defined as being undertaken in the informal economy.
“As such government is charging an applicable rate of 1.75% on all electronic transactions covering mobile money payments, bank transfers, merchant payments, and inward remittances, which shall be borne by the sender except inward remittances, which will be borne by the recipient.”
“To safeguard efforts being made to enhance financial inclusion and protect the vulnerable, all transactions that add up to GH¢100 or less per day, which is approximately ¢3000 per month, will be exempt from this levy,” Ofori-Atta revealed.
But speaking to Parliamentarians on Tuesday, November 30, during the approval of the budget after it was rejected by the House on Friday, November 26, the Finance Minister indicated that the government of Ghana is having discussions with the various telecommunications companies over the 1.75% proposed E-levy.
“We have considered the issues of the 1.75% e-levy in which we are in discussions with the telcos and to scale back to moderate their impact so that in the end, the impact on the citizenry will be manageable,” Ken Ofori-Atta told the MPs.
“We have 11million people who are youth and we have in this budget, introduced the largest ever youth programme of GHC10 billion to ensure that the entrepreneurial nation that we seek will be achieved and the issues of the indecency of jobs and dignity of our youth working will be things of the part,” he added.
The Finance Minister’s statement was in response to some concerns raised by the Minority caucus over the levy.
The Minority in a statement asked the government to “suspend the e-levy and properly engage stakeholders to agree on a reasonable policy.
“The policy is not progressive, not pro-poor, and does not support the much-touted digitalisation agenda and cash-lite economy that we all yearn for.”
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