It is presented as the Amazon of Africa, and this is probably true considering the hundreds of thousands of products sold on its platform. However, the online sales giant Jumia uses several schemes that do not always respect the law. Business News has investigated.
It’s Black Friday, American-style sales. The concept originated in the United States in the 1930s after the Great Depression. The goal is to revitalize the economy by offering monster sales the day after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. Every November, the stores thus display Black Friday panels with particularly attractive sales. Why black? To mark that the streets are black with people. Imported to Europe after several decades, Black Friday made its debut in Tunisia just a few years ago, thanks to the online sales platform Jumia, which is believed to be the country’s first in terms of revenue and volume. Is it real sales like we see elsewhere?
Widely known in Tunisia, especially among followers of social networks and e-commerce enthusiasts, Jumia was created by the Frenchman in his forties Jérémy Hodara in 2012 and is present in eleven African countries, Portugal, China and the Emirates. Legally, it is a French company whose main shareholders include Orange, Axa, Goldman Sachs, etc.
Its slogan is 100% Africa, 100% Internet. According to its official figures, it would have more than fifty million products on its platform, which would have received 1.1 billion visits by 2021. It is sometimes called the Amazon of Africa or the Ali Baba of Africa, and this because of the total absence of these international online sales giants on the black continent.
Jumia presents its own products, but also acts as a “marketplace”, i.e. a showcase for other e-commerce companies. As on Amazon or Ali Baba, you can find everything from furniture to household appliances, including clothing, household items, hardware, pharmacies and drugstores. There is so much of everything that some compare it to Sidi Boumendil, a famous Tunisian street offering various cheap products. It is not very true, because there are also high quality products on Jumia at rock bottom prices.
Theoretically, Black Friday at Jumia is the perfect opportunity to get the best prices on the products on offer. This is what we have tried to verify, knowing that the period of this type of sale is conducive to indulging in deceptive, sometimes even fraudulent, practices.
If some promotions are really tempting, others turn out to be fake. Some merchants take advantage of Black Friday to raise their prices while showing “extraordinary discounts” for products whose final price is higher than the one offered before the sale.
By consulting the Jumia website, we realized that some sellers have manipulated the prices of the items they offer for sale on this platform. The imaginative offers also correspond to the true value of the item, if not more, and thus have nothing to do with the advantageous offers that the sellers praise.
Asked by Business News about this topic, the general manager of Jumia, Kaïs Sanchou, explained to us that the platform had created a special algorithm for the Black Friday period. This intelligent algorithm is supposed to detect this kind of deceptive practice, but of course some traders manage to get away with it.
Explaining that only certain products carry the Black Friday label and thus are really sold at a discount, the general manager of Jumia Tunisia confirmed that the platform also counts on feedback from its users to report these cases and thus continue with the necessary procedures. – to merchants. Asked about the procedure and sanctions, Kaïs Sanchou pointed out that the platform can go as far as banishing a trader in case of a proven offence. We would like to note that the platform has a section through which buyers can report incorrect information about one or more products that are in violation.
Apart from the fake offers on the site, we also learned about another scam on Jumia this Black Friday period. Thus and since November 4, a local bank has been texting its customers explaining that they can enjoy a 15% discount on their credit card purchases on Jumia. Something that we tested ourselves to find out that we were only eligible for a fifteen dinar discount on the purchased product and not 15%.
By contacting the concerned bank, we were made to understand that these are discounts that can go up to 15%, disclaiming any responsibility for this offer. This answer given by the agent is itself wrong. In reality, and as indicated on the Facebook page, the discounts are limited to fifteen dinars and only up to four purchases. It is clear that the bank’s SMS is misleading as it does not mention a cap and only encourages the bank’s customers to shop on Jumia for a 15% discount.
Several bank customers have also reacted badly to the text message received and have published messages on Facebook urging them to preserve their personal data. “The bank does not need to give my number to Jumia for advertising purposes“, said these customers at the bank.
Another discrepancy when you buy online using the payment card of that bank, Jumia requires you to go through its other Jumia Pay platform and not Monétique Tunisies, as is the case on other sites online sales or public sites, such as Steg , Sonde etc.
We are told that Jumia Pay uses the Post Office platform, but this is not stated anywhere on the site. The result is that some suspicious customers refuse to insert their card number and CVV code, lack of trust in this unknown platform in the Tunisian electronic banking landscape.
Another test carried out this week at Jumia during our investigation, namely shopping in a supermarket. The Jumia Food platform promises to deliver groceries in 25 – 35 minutes. Business News tested the service and badly missed the deadline, as shown in screenshots taken this week. We placed the order at 19.03 to be delivered around 21.18, knowing that the order had been canceled several times by the brand for unknown reasons. It was necessary to contact customer service (by chatbot), who took care of our complaint.
It should be noted that Jumia’s customer service stood out for its great courtesy, professionalism and immediate efficiency.
The same cannot be said for delivery people. While some show respectable seriousness, others break several rules, including safety.
Several motorcycle couriers, recognizable by their Jumia Food bags, are a real danger on the road. Without a protective helmet, they allow themselves to run red lights, drive in the wrong direction and at high speed, thus endangering their lives and the lives of road users.
In general, as one of them explained to us, they are “independent” and paid by the race (four dinars). The more they do, the more money they make. The vehicle they have is their own and does not belong to Jumia.
It is clear that Jumia suppliers are not Jumia employees, do not enjoy social security coverage and provide the company with their own vehicle. This is clearly hidden work if you follow the Tunisian labor law to the letter. Where is the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority, where is the CNSS?
Jumia is not the only one practicing this game in the world of e-commerce. The American platform Uber (which also has Uber Eat, similar to Jumia Food) was recently sanctioned in Europe for this practice. The judge held that it is a matter of hidden work and ordered Uber to recruit its couriers and its drivers.
Jumia has democratized online commerce in Tunisia, that is undeniable. In the absence of Amazon (which also has its foreheads), it benefits from almost virgin territory, where similar platforms can be counted on the fingers of one hand (we can cite Tdiscount or Aswek).
Apart from the fact that Jumia can be of service to Tunisians who are interested in online shopping and at low prices, this is not an excuse to cheat them with fake discounts and misleading offers. It also does not have to violate the Tunisian labor law with the hidden work of its messengers, who are considered external collaborators. Not only does it harm these workers, who are often insecure, but it practices unfair competition against other market traders who prefer to respect the law to the letter.
Raouf Ben Hedi – Nadya Jennene