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Online contact lens supplier ceases trading after complaints pile up

Trader behind Contactforlenses.com and Lensplanet.com forced to halt sales

A Jersey-based online trader has been forced to pull the plug, after taking orders it couldn’t fulfil and leaving customers out of pocket, Which? can reveal. 

Planet Connect Ltd, which sells branded contact lenses via two sites – Contactforlenses.com and Lensplanet.com – sparked a string of online complaints from customers who say their goods haven’t arrived and refunds haven’t materialised.

We contacted Jersey Trading Standards about our concerns back in early March. A month later, it confirmed it was aware of the trader. We pushed for more information last week and were told that both the sites were forced to stop taking orders on Friday 4 May.

That meant Planet Connect Ltd was able to accept orders for two more months, taking payment for goods that it knew it couldn’t deliver. Other online complaints suggest that Trading Standards has intervened for some customers as far back as October 2017.

Taking orders it couldn’t fulfil

Planet Connect Ltd fobbed customers off by saying that: ‘Our supplier is running short of these lenses and your order should ship out in the next 8-10 working days.’

One customer from Alaska told Which? that he has bought goods from Lensplanet.com many times before with no issues – until his last order of $110 in October 2017. Emails assured him that his lenses were ‘on back-order’, but after six months of waiting he requested a refund. He was told he would get his money back within six days, but hasn’t heard from them since. He’s now attempting to get a refund via his card provider.

Another customer, who spent £130 on lenses in February 2018, says she asked Jersey Trading Standards to intervene when her refund request was also ignored by the business. She was originally told by an officer that there weren’t enough complaints to pursue the issue any further.

What went wrong?

Which? has repeatedly tried to contact Planet Connect Ltd for an explanation, but the phone number supplied is no longer in use and it has yet to reply to any of our emails.

An announcement on the website is expected imminently, presumably telling customers that it’s no longer trading.

We also contacted financial advisory firm Vistra, which shares the same business address, but it’s yet to confirm whether Planet Connect Ltd is a client.

Jersey Trading Standards is now liaising with the companies involved, but told us it’s unable to provide any more information at this time.

Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC), which regulates Vistra, said it’s unable to comment on any individual firms or their clients.

How to get your money back

If you pay for goods online using a credit or debit card and something goes wrong, you can contact your bank to get a refund via section 75 or chargeback:

Section 75: This law applies to credit card purchases more than £100 and makes your credit card provider jointly liable with the retailer if there’s a problem with your purchase.

Chargeback: This applies to both debit and credit card purchases of any value, but isn’t enshrined in law – Amex, Mastercard and Visa run voluntary schemes that participating banks sign up to. You should ask your bank or credit card provider to process a chargeback from the bank that collected the payment. A time limit of 120 days applies, starting from when you first became aware of the problem.

If the company or trader announces that it has ceased trading, you’ll need to find the contact details of the administrator.

This may be announced on the website. You can also check the Individual Insolvency Register or, for limited companies, go to Companies House – the equivalent in Jersey is held by the JFSC.

Find out more: How to get your money back if a business goes bust

Shopping online safely

For the most part, buying goods online is cheaper and more convenient than in store. But it’s not without risk, particularly when you buy goods from overseas – including the Channel Islands – where you may not have the same consumer rights that apply in the UK and it can be more difficult to enforce them even if you do.

Make sure you never enter payment or personal details without looking for the green padlock (although, this doesn’t guarantee the site is safe, as we explain in this news story) and do some research about the business before you shop.

See what other customers have to say about the business on sites such as Feefo, Sitejabber or Trustpilot, which aggregate customer reviews. Positive reviews can be faked, but a flurry of similar complaints is a strong warning to steer clear.

Find out more: How to spot a fake, fraudulent or scam website

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