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You got scammed – There is no UNIQLO in South Africa

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You got scammed – There is no UNIQLO in South Africa

The recent waves of UNIQLO online shopping scams has shone a new light on the lack of proper laws and regulations around cybercrime in South Africa.

If it was not enough that South Africans have to be on the lookout for their own safety on the streets and in their homes – we now also have to worry about the safety of our personal, confidential information on our digital devices.

UNIQLO has not entered the South African retail market

Staying on top of the latest international fashion trends from South Africa often means following brands that have not yet made the jump into the South African market. This includes the high-quality, highly popular Japanese clothing brand, UNIQLO.

However, if you have seen any websites or advertisements claiming that UNIQLO has entered the South African e-commerce space under the radar – beware. This is the newest wave of sophisticated online shopping scams doing the rounds.

Where and how UNIQLO does business

UNIQLO claims that the secret to the brand’s great success is the fact that its business model unifies the entire clothing production process from beginning to end.

And while the brand has enjoyed great, international notoriety, its availability is quite limited. UNIQLO’s official stores can be summarized as follows:

Area Number of stores
Japan 800 stores
Greater China (including Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan markets) 1,031
South Korea 126
Southeast Asia, India & Australia 342
North America 67
Europe 68

Online, the brand uses as its online shopping domain (with the geographical identifier added to the end, as in for the United States). Sadly, though, this official website does not allow you to shop from South Africa.

Beware of the online shopping scam

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) saw a whopping 600% increase in the number of cybercrimes reported between 2018 and 2022. And this number is still rising daily.

But while the good practices of checking suspicious domain names, checking for spelling errors, checking for design flaws and checking other red flags before checking out still apply – the new-age online shopping scams are much more difficult to identify.

These fake UNIQLO South Africa websites, for instance, sport convincing-enough domain names (remember that international shops usually have .com/za/ domain names), and entirely fake storefronts – all carefully engineered to wrangle as much confidential data from victims as possible.

The confusing online landscape in South Africa

Getting scammed – or in this case, hopefully only almost scammed – can be embarrassing, but it is not nearly as embarrassing as you may think it is.

The reality is that trying to shop online in South Africa can be confusing. Not only is it difficult and confusing navigating our customs procedures when you want to order from an international brand that does not have a local store – but it can be even more confusing shopping from international brands that do have local stores.

For example, the clothing retailer, H&M, does have an international website (complete with a shopping functionality), however, if you try to order from H&M in South Africa – the simplest method is actually to order through the local site, Superbalist.

In a similar fashion, you need to go to to shop for the items that can be found in-store at Foschini, The Fix and more.

The bigger problem

While the powers that be are often quick to tout the fact that South Africa has the largest economy on the African continent – what is often unspoken (or, at least, said a little quieter) – is that our laws and regulations have had considerable trouble keeping up with this rapid growth.

It is no secret that the digital world has thrown many lawmakers across the globe for a loop. And, even though the online scams and fraud perpetrated in the country continue to climb – seemingly more and more with each day – South Africa has been quite slow on the uptake of new laws, acts and systems to protect vulnerable consumers.

The Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020 is the closest that we have come to policing the South African web, but (like most new legislation) this act fails to establish a true governing body, or an effective system in which to handle these crimes in a timely and effective manner and it really just serves to define cybercrime and the various possible punishments for these crimes – in the unlikely event that the guilty party is ever brought to justice.

The SAFPS has also promised that it is working on a system to help South Africans identify and protect themselves from online crimes, but this solution, unfortunately, bears a striking resemblance to those “hijacking hotspot” warning signs that you may have seen dotted alongside dangerous roads.