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Consumers rack up big losses to shady online cannabis retailers

One of the most interesting consumer inquiries to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since the start of the year concerns cannabis businesses.
BBB pot scams

One of the most interesting consumer inquiries to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since the start of the year concerns cannabis businesses.

BBB has received more than 60,000 consumer inquiries for the industry, with many trying to get details on trustworthy online retailers. There has also been an increase in consumer complaints and Scam Tracker reports connected to the industry. With this in mind, BBB is urging consumers to not only research online cannabis retailers before spending money, but to also adhere to the provincial regulations around purchase and consumption.

In April, BBB serving Mainland BC started receiving several consumer inquiries and complaints about Canadian Hemp Co., an online cannabis retailer with a New Westminster address listed on its website. The consumers alleged that they made purchases of cannabis and cannabis products through the company's website and either received something they did not order or nothing at all.

A BBB investigation revealed that:

Canadian Hemp Co. does not have a license for businesses operating Marijuana Sales and Services from the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

The address listed on their website belongs to another unrelated business. BBB visited the location on Aug. 19 and found that a salon was based there.

The City of New Westminster does not have any records for a business license belonging to Canadian Hemp Co.

The website has grammar and punctuation errors and also encourages Canadian consumers to make payments via bitcoin.

The company has not responded to BBB's queries about their location, business model and competency license and has since received an F rating. An alert has also been added to their Business Profile to warn potential consumers.

“It is important that consumers make the extra effort to research companies before conducting transactions, especially when dealing with an online retailer,” said Karla Laird, Manager for Community and Public Relations at BBB serving Mainland BC. “Products like cannabis are regulated for a reason. Do not get distracted by attractive deals that lead you to make either illegal or risky purchases, as you will lose the protection of the law if you stumble into a scam.”

For eligible consumers planning to purchase cannabis, BBB is offering the following tips:

Protect yourself and your money: Since cannabis is so highly regulated, it is in the best interest of both your health and legal rights as a consumer, to purchase from licensed companies, as they are held accountable for the products you receive. Check the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to see if the cannabis retailer you are considering to purchase from is on the list of licensed retailers in the province. Consumers can also check OrgBook BC or the province's licensing map to find legally registered non-medical cannabis stores, as well as legal public and private cannabis retail stores. Licensed private retailers may sell cannabis and cannabis accessories, however, they are required to display a valid licence where it is visible to the public.

Know the advertiser: While some of the best deals are only available online, many sketchy online retailers advertise great deals that fail to measure up to the promotional hype. Before completing a transaction, especially if the retailer is located outside of Canada, research the company's name, address and contact information to determine its reliability and trustworthiness on Proceed with caution if the company has an F rating or if you cannot find a BBB Business Profile for them.

Shop with a credit card: In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections. It is easier to dispute charges that you did not approve. Debit cards, prepaid cards, cryptocurrency and gift cards do not have the same protections as a credit card. If you tried to cancel an order or you are unable to get a refund within 15 days, contact your credit card provider with the details of the transaction and request a reversal of the charges.

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