Jakarta. Online shopping sites in Indonesia are claiming big bucks from this year’s “National Online Shopping Day,” or “Harbolnas,” campaign, but critics are concerned over the lack of concerted efforts and transparency in the drive, underlining the fierce competition between companies to become the market leader in an unregulated industry.
Touting up to 99 percent in discounts, the campaign was initiated by six e-commerce companies in 2012 in a bid to replicate the success of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” in the United States and “Singles’ Day” in China.
A hundred and forty online retailers in Indonesia participated in Harbolnas, which ran from Dec. 10 to 12 this year, reflecting the rapid growth of an industry whose market value is expected to reach $3 billion this year and $5 billion next year, from $2 billion in 2014, according to International Data Corporation.
Anthony Fung, managing director of online fashion retailer Zalora Indonesia said in a statement on Monday that the company saw sales surge thirty-fold during the three-day shopping event, but did not give a figure.
“Everything is going so well that we decided to extend this campaign one more day, until December 13, so that we can give consumers more opportunities to get their favorite fashion brands at Zalora,” Anthony added.
MatahariMall.com, the e-commerce arm of the Lippo Group, with which the Jakarta Globe is affiliated, claimed that sales went up 10 times the daily average during Harbolnas, with electronic goods and smartphones leading sales, according to chief executive Hadi Wenas.
The hefty discounts promised, including up to 99 percent from MatahariMall, have prompted concern from consumers and industry lobby groups.
The Association of E-commerce in Indonesia, or idEA, issued a statement over the weekend urging Harbolnas participants to divulge the actual value of sales derived from the event. This is in order to “assert the potential of Indonesia’s e-commerce market from local and international perspectives,” citing similar practices by online retailers in the United States and China.
“There is concern over the hype in huge discounts offered during Harbolnas,” said Tulus Abadi, chairman of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI), as quoted by Merdeka.com.
He urged consumers to be cautious about wild-sounding deals online, noting that consumer protection was still largely unregulated by the government.
Lazada Indonesia was among the companies under scrutiny for manipulating prices, after a customer spotted a seller on the online marketplace listing infant diapers at a pre-Harbolnas price of Rp 130 million ($9,210), before a discount of nearly 100 percent dropped the price to Rp 93,482.
Lazada said in a subsequent statement that it was not the company’s policy to deceive customers and that the seller in question had been banned from the marketplace.
Similarly, MatahariMall listed a PlayStation 4 game console at an initial Rp 10.8 million before discounting it to Rp 4.599 million. Other sellers list the price of the same item outside the Harbolnas at Rp 4.7 million.
Faced with the rapid growth in online retail in Indonesia, the government is in the process of laying the groundwork for regulating the e-commerce industry, from foreign ownership and taxes to consumer protection and business models. A regulatory road map devised by the Communications and Information Technology Ministry is expected before the end of the year.
At the same time, idEA said it was also currently devising an ethical code of conduct when offering promotions and discounts, which it aims to unveil in the first half of next year in a bid to boost consumer trust and satisfaction when shopping online.
Additional reporting by Indah Handayani