Asian consumers angry at Woolworths for blocking baby formula orders

Woolworths has been accused of racially profiling customers after Woolworths cancelled three online baby formula orders and suspending their accounts.

Within the past month, Sydney parents Adrian Cheng, Reginald Dong and Sarah Kong had their online orders for tins of baby formula cancelled –something they blame on their Asian surnames.

Australian parents have become increasingly concerned about a baby formula shortage of preferred brands, such as A2 Platinum and Bellamy’s Organic, calling for Woolworths and Coles to enforce purchase limits and clamp down on bulk buying.

According to Korean-Australian mother Sarah Kong, her account was suspended after she ordered four tins of formula on New Year’s Eve and received a confirmation email and the expected time of arrival.

“At every point in this process you have failed in customer service. At worst it is fraud to have accepted the order, taken the money, imply that I contacted you for a refund and then block my account,” Kong said in a complaint to Woolworths.

Following consumer pressure late last year, Woolworths lowered its baby formula purchase limit to four per transaction, while Coles lowered it to two.

A Woolworths spokesman said the chain was trying to manage its supplies of formula for its online customers in a period of high demand.

“In some cases we suspend accounts pending a confirmation that the order fits within our terms and conditions. In any case where a customer has had a poor experience, Woolworths apologises for this,” the spokesman said.

Erin Chew, spokeswoman for the Asian Australian Alliance, said following the widespread media coverage of the baby formula shortfall late last year, a "xenophobic spotlight" had unfairly focused on the Chinese.

"We need a change in how Australians view those of Chinese ancestry. The really unfair aspect is that families like Cheng and Dong are well integrated Chinese Australian families," she said.

Chinese demand for Western baby formula rocketed after a string of food scares, including the 2008 melamine contamination that killed six babies and made 300,000 seriously ill.
 

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