Queensland mask company accused of failing to deliver
"ANGRY" and "disgusted" customers caught up in the coronavirus pandemic across the world say Gold Coast companies have failed to deliver or refund money paid for $28-a-pop masks.
Face protectors have become the most coveted item as deaths from COVID-19 climb into the hundreds of thousands.
A Bulletin investigation into Coast companies Fortress Masks and Viral Tech Masks includes:
* Claims of numerous global donations by Fortress Masks, including 700 masks to the Gold Coast University Hospital. The masks have not been received. After inquiries by the Bulletin, the company removed its donations page from its website.
*A UK manufacturer is pursuing legal action against both companies for allegedly wrongfully using images of its product.
* At the time of publication, the Fortress Masks website listed just 34 successfully delivered orders.
* Customers allege "tracking" numbers are being created but parcels never make it to couriers.
The online company Fortress Masks, a subsidiary of Mello Beauty, registered to a Benowa residence, has been selling ventilator-type masks since mid-March.
But customers in coronavirus hot spots say they have been stung as the facial masks have not arrived, after more than a month of excuses and assurance of early delivery.
Those the Bulletin spoke to say they have been denied a refund.
Fortress Masks follows a similar pattern to a near identical website, Viral Tech Masks, which was also based on the Gold Coast. Established in February, Viral Tech Masks does not have a registered business number, but credit card charges from the company track the business to the Gold Coast.
Both companies advertise "military grade N99 masks'' for about $US17.99 ($A27.57) each.
Filters for the masks can be bought for $US11.99.
A handful of unverified reviewers of both companies claim online to have received the product, but people who have been in contact with the Bulletin say they are still waiting.
In its latest newsletter, Fortress Masks claims longer shipping and handling time due to the coronavirus. However, masks for some have failed to arrive after more than a month.
The location of the supplier is unlisted on the company website, but purchases generate tracking IDs from China.
Fortress Mask has not responded to numerous requests for comment through the Fortress Mask online and social media channels.
Viral Tech Masks also has not responded.
After messages from the Bulletin, Fortress Mask removed its online claims to have donated 700 masks in its "home town'' to the Gold Coast University Hospital, along with $20,000 in donations to international hospitals.
The Gold Coast Hospital Foundation said a donation from the company had not been received.
Fortress Mask and Viral Tech has also been accused of using the images of UK mask manufacturer Cambridge Masks.
"We are aware of these companies and have already contacted them through our legal team to request they stop using the imagery from our website and social media," a spokesman for Cambridge Masks said.
"People should check domain names carefully, pay on a credit card if possible to get extra protection and ensure the masks they purchase are from a reputable source with reviews online, active social media etc."
Kansas resident Carlos Rodriguez said he bought masks from Fortress to protect his sister during the coronavirus outbreak in the US. He said she had just had a kidney transplant.
He claims he paid for the masks in early April and was told delivery would take up to two weeks.
"I am beyond frustrated and truly disgusted," Mr Rodriguez said.
"I became suspicious when the package still had not been received by the mail carrier after a tracking number was created. I am usually a very savvy online shopper and always do background research before ordering with a new vendor, but this time I didn't because the website looked so legit.
"There are hundreds if not thousands of others that have lost out on a lot more than my $75."
Oklahoma City resident Shauna Struby said: "Two of the masks I ordered are for elderly parents - my 85-year-old mother and my 90-year-old mother-in-law.
"Both have been making do with bandannas and staying in for the most part but are anxious to get their masks so they can at least maybe, eventually, go to the grocery store.
"I just wish the company would do us the courtesy of replying and explaining what's happening."
A Viral Tech customer named Ruby who lives in London told the Bulletin she had spent about £38 ($A72) on masks in February, so she could leave the house safely.
She has still not received a thing.
"I was told due to COVID-19 it would take five to seven days longer to get my masks,'' she said.
"I've looked at the 'tracking' which is a China parcel tracking and it just says it's in China. I got the masks because I'm disabled with several chronic conditions including severe asthma and they apparently had good reviews on their website.
"It's terrible that others have gone through this, absolutely terrible, to take advantage at this time."
Originally published as Coast mask company accused of failing to deliver