A business owner who runs three take-aways near Greater Manchester says he is being 'driven out of business' by a 'scam' on Just Eat.
Marc Faulkner, director of The Deli Group, has spoken out about a 'loophole' which is causing pain to his business.
The 33-year-old says some customers are now fraudulently cancelling orders on the popular website - despite them being delivered to their door in full.
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Marc - whose business includes Dentons Deli, Newton Deli and Kopi Coffee in St Helens - believes the problem is getting worse.
He says it has become more common since the 'loophole' began circulating on social media, the ECHO reports.
And while customers may think it is just a a sneaky 'hack', Marc says it actually hurts small independent businesses like his.
Marc, from Newton-le-Willows, said: "I don't know how we’re going to continue is the honest answer - it’s not great at all.
“We’re all trading on borrowed time in the current climate anyway, robbing Peter to pay Paul and putting off paying a bill for another month until we can stretch out the goodwill of our suppliers and other issues all without this.
“There are a number of businesses that simply won’t be here by the end of probably next month if this situation isn’t resolved."
After reviewing his most recent accounts, Marc claimed his businesses were hit by a further 16 refund requests which he believes to be fraudulent.
He said: “It’s just absolutely crippling us.”
All three of the Deli Group’s sites are long term Just Eat partners and Newton Deli is what is known as a Just Eat local legend - which means they are one of the online food ordering company’s most popular restaurant partners.
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For this reason Marc said pulling away from Just Eat sadly isn’t an option for them as to lose the takeaway revenue would 'simply close them down'.
Marc added: “Obviously we’re losing hundreds of pounds [through the loophole] anyway which isn’t sustainable either, so I don’t quite know what the answer and the way forward is.”
Marc believes that there is a 'lingering misapprehension' that Just Eat picks up the cost when customers claim a refund - but he claims this is not the case, with the full value of any refunded amount being paid by the restaurant partner.
He added: “There seems to be a common misconception that you’re a business owner so you’re rolling in money, what they don’t realise is you’re a business owner who is massively overdrawn and haven't paid any of your bills for months and that's probably the reality of it for most of us.”
Marc added: “You wouldn’t walk out of a restaurant without paying for your meal, or the supermarket without paying for your shopping - but whilst you may think you’re just 'gaming the system' and getting a freebie meal courtesy of a multi-million pound business, what you’re actually doing is crippling small, independent local businesses, often the very same ones who have supported our communities during the most challenging 18 months.
“It very much feels like we're being driven out of business when we've done everything we can to keep the business sustainable and support the community as long as we can.”
Just Eat said it has introduced measures which are designed to make the process fairer for restaurants and customers alike.
A spokesperson for Just Eat said: "We're absolutely committed to supporting our restaurant partners and have recently put measures in place to ensure an even fairer refunds process. This includes increasing the time for restaurants to raise any disputes.
"While cases like these are rare, whenever we're made aware of any activity relating to non-genuine orders, we will always take steps to ensure our partners are fairly compensated.
"We are continually reviewing our policies and processes in this space to support both customers and restaurants."
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