Consumer advocate slams vendor rebates

The Australian Consumers' Association (ACA) has attacked the growing use of vendor rebates in the channel.

The body, which advocates the interests of consumers, has flagged promotions involving cashback offers and product giveaways as major pain points for consumers and resellers alike.

Restrictive terms and conditions, extended delays in receiving rebates and a lack of accountability were all highlighted as areas of concern.

While end-user rebates had been used in the channel for many years, increased pricing pressure and competition was leading to more frequent use and abuse, ACA spokesperson, Georgina Swan, said.

"Rebates are being used more frequently and by key players," she said. "As more people are taking them up, more are having problems."

To illustrate this claim, Swan pointed to several negative rebate experiences involving consumers and the ACA.

"In one case, we had to wait five months and follow up with calls to receive a $20 rebate on a vendor's software product," she said. "In another, a consumer had to wait 14 weeks to receive a $40 discount after his rebate paperwork was lost."

Acer marketing manager, Raymond Vardanega, agreed the use of rebates was on the rise.

"Mail-in rebates are very popular in America and we have noticed an increased use of them here, largely by American vendors," he said. "However, they always have strings attached and Australians look for the no-nonsense deal."

These strings were particularly sore points for resellers, Swan said, because consumers falling foul of restrictive terms and conditions often pointed the finger of blame at the point of sale.

"It can be very difficult for resellers as they are the consumer's first port of call if something goes wrong," she said. "They really have to make sure the vendor is above board."

Vendors need to take more responsibility for promotions in order to resolve these issues, Swan said.

"There are other ways for consumers to get quicker rebates, such as through the vendor's website," she said. "Also, if a vendor wants to discount products it should just discount them upfront. The consumer should not have to do all the leg work."