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Jewellery trading ethics in the spotlight

Posted on April 26, 2013 by Shayna Gavin, Jewellery Designer, Sky with Diamonds

We constantly consider and reconsider the ethics of jewellery manufacture and retail in our business, as they are integral to our top priority of excellent customer care. 

The ethics of retail practices have been in the spotlight over the last couple of months since Channel Seven's 'Today Tonight' program aired a piece on 14/2/2013 named "Raids uncover illegal jewellers".

The validity of some of their claims has been questioned, as reported in Jewellery World, and these are being followed up by the Jewellers Association of Australia, of which we are members. Inaccuracies of note include: 

  • A statement that the ACCC had successfully prosecuted seven companies in the last year. The show's edit implied they were all jewellers, although only one was; 
  • A consumer who bought a supposedly diamond ring found it was made of plastic. The edit implied this was purchased from a jeweller. However it was bought over gumtree.com which is a consumer to consumer site, and outside of the jewellery industry. 
So the Today Tonight team appear to have used a little flair in making their story more sensational. 

But it still raised some good points. 

1. Marked down prices
The Department of Fair Trading and the ACCC took issue with jewellers advertising sale prices where the item had never been available at the original price. A jeweller on the show warned against buying from companies with large discounts on jewellery items, whose shops seem to always be on sale. 
We at Sky with Diamonds don't have sales. We always offer the most competitive price. We don't pretend an item is worth more than the marked price. 
We do this for a few reasons. First, we feel this that pricing our items for what they are worth is the most transparent way of doing business. Second, we believe our customers deserve more respect than to be pressured into quickly making a purchase while it is on sale. And third, we all know that sinking feeling when we have purchased something at full price only to see it on sale the next week. Sinking feelings aren't really what we're aiming for!

2. Valuations 
Any reputable jeweller should be willing to offer you an independent valuation of your jewellery piece. 
We include these free of charge for our more valuable pieces. They are done by an independent jewellery valuer, and can be used for your insurance. 
For other items, we can have an independent valuation done for you at the cost price. 
When choosing a loose diamond to set into one of our rings for a customer, we can opt to choose a diamond that comes with a Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) certification. These rings would then also have an independent valuation done once the stone is set. 

3. 'No refund' policies
The Department of Fair Trading and the ACCC took issue with jewellery stores' signage stating 'No Refunds' were available. 

The Australian Consumer Law requires exchange or repair (for problems that are 'not major'), and refund, exchange or repair (for 'major' problems) including issues where the item: is unsafe; is significantly different from the description; doesn't do what we said it would, or what you asked for, and can't be easily fixed. These conditions apply to every single sale, and for that reason 'no refund' policies are illegal. 

This law does not require any exchange or refund for change of mind on purchases, however we offer this to our customers as a courtesy, understanding that piece of mind can come in handy when buying gifts or online. We certainly do have exemptions to this, for example where the item was a special order.

A full copy of our terms and conditions relating to refunds can be found here, and the link is in plain view at the footer on our website. In our beautiful bricks and mortar store in Melbourne, our policies are on the walls, accompanied by the Australian Consumer Law (a copy of which is also included in our terms and conditions published online).

4. Paypal protection
We have opted to use Paypal for our online store because: 
  • Paypal independently processes your payment; 
  • we don't have your credit card information; 
  • it is secure for the customer and the store owner;
  • it offers buyer protection. In the Today Tonight show mentioned earlier, the supposedly diamond ring was purchased through Paypal and the consumer got her money back. 
I see the reasons for concern at the sensationalised Today Tonight piece. They certainly do appear to have drawn some very long bows and used careful editing to create a message that seems a little misleading. 

However I am quietly thrilled when our jewellery retail industry is asked to examine it's practices and the ethics behind them. We get into this business because we love working with people, natural stones and metals; we love having a creative outlet; and we love being a part of our customers' celebrations and memories. I don't think we can achieve this unless we operate in a fair way too. 
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