Brazen trap: For years, a busy mail order company has been luring consumers into the cost trap with false profit promises.
Specifically, the supposed winners receive consignments with products that they have not ordered but are supposed to pay for anyway. Consumer advocates make it clear: If you get unordered goods into your home, you don’t have to pay for them and are even allowed to keep them.
The scam of the fraudsters
The process is usually the same: Elderly people are specifically written to with congratulations on a win worth several thousand euros. However, the winners have to react quickly, otherwise this will be forfeited. To get the money paid out, you have to order something from the mail order catalog and claim the profit with it.
The company Shopping Alliance, also known as Edelweiss Versand or Bella Vita, is behind these scams.
Consumer advocates have been targeting them for several years. The company’s headquarters are in Malta.
Older people in their sights
The Shopping Alliance mainly sells household items of all kinds, starting with grass seeds, cranberry capsules, cosmetics, cleaning products and kitchen accessories. The company’s target group is primarily the elderly and old. The Shopping Alliance purchases your personal data, such as name, address or date of birth, legally from data dealers such as the Austrian Post.
Neither website nor email address
Incidentally, the company only operates in the offline world. That means: It has no website, email address or telephone number. The only contact option is via a post office box in Salzburg.
If the “lucky” winners send the order form to this post office box address, as requested in the competition letter, they will receive a package a few days later. This contains not only the items ordered, but also a few other products including the invoice for them. Unsurprisingly, the winnings are not included.
Articles that have not been ordered may be kept
Legally, Emanuela Prock from the Vienna Chamber of Labor sees the matter clearly:
“What has not been ordered does not have to be paid for, even if it is sent to you.”
She claims that these items can be kept, used, or thrown away. But you are not obliged to send them back. However, the AK consumer protection council recommends writing to the mail order company and requesting that the unordered goods be collected within a certain period of time. If the dealer does not answer or if the goods are not picked up during this time, you can do whatever you want with them.
Profit can be sued
Prock’s recommendation is: Don’t take part in competitions where you don’t know 100 percent which company is behind it. If the promise of winning gives the impression that the prize has actually been won, this could in principle also be sued.
However, you should only take legal action with legal expenses insurance in order not to be left with potential costs.
Ways to protect yourself
Anyone who no longer wishes to receive catalogs from Edelweiss, Bella Vita & Co can assert their right of objection. To do this, you send a letter to the company that you object to the data processing, would like to be removed from the advertising mailing list and request that all personal data be deleted.
However, in order not to receive any personally addressed advertising at all, one can register on the “Robinson list” of the Chamber of Commerce. If you register there, your address may no longer be used by direct advertising companies, address publishers and mail order companies.