Buying on Carousell: What to Do if the Seller Disappears after Getting Paid

Last updated on April 2, 2018

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You’re scrolling through the Carousell app when something you want to buy catches your eye. You contact the seller, make an offer and transfer payment to the seller’s bank account.

You then ask the seller when the two of you will be meeting up, or when the seller will be posting the item to you. However, the seller goes MIA!!

Is your money gone for good? What can you do in such a situation? 

1. Bring a Claim against the Seller

You can file a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals to try getting your money back from the seller. The Small Claims Tribunals is part of the Singapore court system and hears claims arising from any contract for the sale of goods for up to $10,000.

All claims have to be filed within 1 year from the date of claim. This date will generally be the day that the seller failed to deliver the item to you.

Read more about making a claim in the Small Claims Tribunal here.

Pros:

  • Filing a claim in the Small Claims Tribunal is relatively affordable. The cost of filing a claim up to $5,000 for individuals is $10 (or $20 if your claim is between $5,000 and $10,000).
  • You will not need to engage a lawyer. Lawyers are not allowed to represent parties for disputes heard in the Small Claims Tribunals.
  • Filing a claim is easy and convenient. Filing a claim can be done online, and user-friendly guides are provided on the State Courts website.

Cons:

  • You will need the seller’s personal particulars in order to file a claim. For example, the seller’s name and registered address. You may have difficulty obtaining these particulars due to the relative anonymity of Carousell users.
  • It might not be worth it to file a claim if the amount you are claiming for is low. As mentioned above, it will cost you at least $10 to file a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals. It might not make much financial sense to spend the time and effort going after the seller if the item you’re buying is not worth a lot of money.

2. File a Police Report

You could file a police report and let Singapore’s criminal justice system deal with the matter. Information you should provide in your report includes the seller’s bank account details and screenshots of your conversations with the seller.

Generally, Carousell scam cases have been brought under the offence of cheating under section 415 of the Penal Code. The punishment for cheating is a fine and/or up to 3 years’ jail.

For example, 31-year-old Cai Jiaxiang was jailed for 16 months for cheating 15 victims out of a total of S$10,370 on Carousell in less than a month. He had offered to sell iPhone 7s but failed to deliver the phones after buyers made full or partial payments into one of 3 bank accounts. 

Pros:

  1. Making a police report is relatively easy. It can be done at your nearest police station, or online on the Singapore Police Force website.
  2. By making a report, you are doing your part to deter and minimise the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.

Cons:

  • There is no guarantee you will get your money back. This is especially if there is insufficient evidence that the seller has cheated you. And even if the seller has been tracked down, charged and convicted in court, there is no guarantee the court will order him or her to make restitution to you (i.e. compensate you for your loss).

3. File a Magistrate’s Complaint

You may commence criminal proceedings against the seller by filing a Magistrate’s Complaint at the Community Justice Tribunals Division (CJTD) of the State Courts. This is an alternative to filing a police report. (However, filing a police report is still recommended as you are often asked for the police report when filing a Magistrate’s Complaint.)

It costs $20 to file a Magistrate’s Complaint. If the Magistrate believes that there are sufficient grounds for the complaint, he or she may order the police to investigate into it.

Pros and cons:

  • The pros and cons of this approach are similar to those of filing a police report.
  • However, filing a Magistrate’s Complaint may be costly if you decide to engage a lawyer to assist you with the filing.

4. Report the Incident to the Carousell Support Team

You can report the incident to the Carousell support team by submitting a ticket here.

In your ticket, you should provide the Carousell usernames of both yourself and the seller, the names of the relevant listings, and a description of what happened.

You can also:

  • Report the seller. From either the seller’s profile page or your chat with the seller in the Carousell app, tap the “three dots” icon at the top right of the screen, then tap “Report user”. (You can also report the seller from the Carousell website by entering into your chat with the seller and clicking on the “Report User” button.)
  • Report the listing (if it is still active). On the listing page in the Carousell app, tap on the “three dots” icon at the top right of the screen, then tap “Report listing”.

If there is sufficient evidence that the seller has cheated you, Carousell will suspend the seller’s account. Carousell also assists enforcement agencies in tackling fraud cases by sharing information required for investigations where necessary.

Pros:

  • Reporting the incident to the Carousell support team is a free and immediate course of action that you can take.

Cons:

  • There is no guarantee you will get your money back. As stated in its terms of service, Carousell is not obliged to provide you with a refund or compensation if a seller fails to deliver items you have paid for.

Tips to Prevent Yourself from Falling Victim to Carousell Scams

To avoid falling victim to scammers on Carousell, try the following:

  • Instead of making payment in advance, opt to make payment only upon delivery of the item. This way, the seller will not receive payment until you have received the item.
  • If the seller is mailing the item to you, opt for registered mail. You will then be able track the delivery status of your package.

More general tips on dealing safely on Carousell can be found on its website.

The methods discussed in this article on what you can do if the seller becomes uncontactable after getting paid can be used together.

For example, after reporting the incident to the Carousell support team, you can also file a police report against the seller and start bringing a claim against him or her in the Small Claims Tribunals.

Ultimately however, when entering into any online transactions, it is worth erring on the side of caution. Buyers should always do as much as they can to verify the authenticity of the seller’s intentions. For example, you can ask the seller why he or she is selling the item, and/or request for photos of the item.

Also, take note of the number of reviews that a seller has and the content of these reviews. Trustworthy and reliable sellers are likely to have multiple positive reviews from previous buyers.

Before making a purchase
  1. Consumer Rights in Singapore
  2. Requisite elements in the formation of a contract
  3. Buying a Car in Singapore - A Comprehensive Guide
When making a purchase
  1. Can silence amount to acceptance of a contract?
  2. What are Warranties, Conditions and Innominate Terms?
  3. The sale of food in Singapore
When there are problems after purchase
  1. What if a shop vendor sells a grossly overpriced piece of merchandise to me?
  2. When Can I Void a Contract For Misrepresentation?
  3. Repossession for failure to pay instalments in Singapore
  4. Buying on Carousell: What to Do if the Seller Disappears after Getting Paid
  5. What Can You Do if You Were Sold a Defective Product in Singapore?
How and where to seek redress
  1. How to resolve disputes with car dealers
  2. How does the Hire-Purchase Act protect consumers in Singapore?
  3. The Lemon Law in Singapore - Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act
  4. Unfair Contract Terms Act - UCTA in Singapore
  5. Unfair sale practices, cooling periods, and the right to cancel contracts – Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act
  6. Online Purchase Scams: What to do if your orders do not arrive
Specific consumer matters
  1. Do I have to pay the 10% service charge in restaurants?
  2. Is it illegal to jailbreak your iPhone, iPad, Android, or to modify your Playstation, Wii or Xbox in Singapore?
  3. I pawned a piece of jewellery to a pawnshop. What are my rights as a pawner?
  4. Is it illegal to resell tickets at higher prices in Singapore?
  5. Can I refuse to pay restaurants for lousy food or service?
  6. Is it Illegal to Buy Counterfeit Goods in Singapore?
  7. Am I liable for the charges if my credit card is stolen? What is the law on lost card liability?