GROUP buying has exploded onto the online shopping scene in South Africa and people are unsure if the deals are legitimate or a scam.

The concept of group buying is simple: discounted deals on a variety of products are offered to subscribers on websites such as Groupon and UbuntuDeal. The aim is to attract more buyers and make them loyal to the product.

Group buying is a relatively new concept in South Africa and according to Group Buying South Africa, it is basically risk-free. Subscribers can get deals on food, clothing, accommodation and much more  for a fraction of the original price.

Group buying started late last year and, according to Group Buying SA, it is here to stay.

There are about 40 group-buying websites in South Africa that send emails to subscribers with the deals of the day. I f you do not like the deal, you do not buy it.

Jess Green, the brains behind UbuntuDeal, says group buying is massively popular.

“Only six months after starting UbuntuDeal in 2010, we joined Bid or Buy. According to our statistics every subscriber we have buys something,” said Green.

He also says that all group buying websites are not always what they seem.

“Groupon has had a lot of complaints and they often have quantity, not quality.”

Groupon is the most visited site in South Africa, with the largest base of subscribers. According to HelloPeter, a website that breaks down the nature of complaints, 10% of all Groupon complaints are billing and accounts, 16% for bad feedback and 12% for breach of contract.

“We [UbuntuDeal] pick and choose which companies we want and we are broadening our sales force into the big cities of South Africa,” Green said.

However, it does not seem like the problem lies with quality. Witsies say they are unfamiliar with these websites.

Tamlyn Crawford and Brierley Green, both 2nd year BA students, have never heard of group buying before. They said they would use the websites if they knew more about them.

“Ja, I’m sure I would use it if I was more exposed to it,” said Crawford. Green added, “If there were really good deals on clothes I would use it.”

Marcel Kutumela a 2nd year social work student, said: “It’s a good idea if it is legit, but I’ve heard stories where people have lost money from false deals.

“I wouldn’t use it because they require your personal and bank details and it is just too risky.”

Whether or not group buying is here to stay is up to the consumers. For more information visit www.groupbuying.co.za.