Vietnam group buying site resumes business, promises compensation

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Group buying site Nhom Mua resumed business Monday after one and a half months, promising to compensate customers whose coupons were rejected by merchants during that period.

A spokesperson for the Ho Chi Minh City-based company said the director has been replaced and internal problems have been resolved.

The director, Tom Tran, is being investigated for embezzlement.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, a member of the company board, said in a statement: "The most important goal right now is to protect the interest of our customers and retail partners."

Many merchants have been refusing to honor vouchers issued by Nhom Mua, saying it owes them money.

Both suppliers and customers had said they were unable to contact the company since the middle of last month, when it ceased operations reportedly after shareholders suspected Tran of committing financial irregularities.

Van said the company has arranged for merchants to accept the rejected vouchers, and would contact customers with the information.

News website VnExpress quoted an employee as saying the company has also asked merchants to extend the term of the vouchers that expired during the crisis.

"If they refuse, Nhom Mua will take back the vouchers and compensate the customers," the employee said.

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But several loyal customers of Nhom Mua told news website VnExpress they no longer have confidence and may switch to a different discount site, or stop using group buying.

Nhom Mua was one of the first group buying sites in Vietnam when it was established in 2010 amid the soaring number of Internet users in the country.

It has since become the largest industry player with a 60 percent share of a market that has around 100 competitors.

Groupon started the business in the US in 2008 as a new kind of e-commerce.

Suppliers offer promotional deals on condition they get a minimum number of consumers, usually between 50 and 100, within a certain time frame.

Group buying companies advertise their deals on Facebook and other social networking sites, and send out mass Twitter messages and emails to reach their targeted market.

Consumers in turn ask family members and friends to join them in taking advantage of an offer, and the discount sites receive a cut from the merchants.

Vouchers for a wide range of products from meals to travel packages are offered at 40 to 70 percent below market rate.

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