High Street Shopping

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Case Studies - High Street Shopping

Just because you bought an item nearly a year ago, don’t assume it’s too late to make a claim if something goes wrong with it.

Advice from Which? Legal helped Sam Leitch recover the full cost of a sofa – 11 months after she bought it.

Sam bought a leather corner sofa and chair from SCS Edinburgh for £5,490 in July 2009. Less than a year later, she noticed that the sofa’s stitching had started to unravel and reported the fault to SCS.

Sam was shocked when a technician sent by the company to inspect the sofa, simply glued it back together.

Seven days later, the stitching started coming apart again. Sam contacted her local trading standards office, which contacted SCS on her behalf. SCS said that it required photographs of the fault, and wanted to send round another technician – who turned out to be the same person who inspected the sofa previously.

SCS then, via the manufacturers, offered to replace the sofa covers. Sam reluctantly accepted, providing that the colour of the covers would exactly match the rest of the suite. But, as the samples sent didn’t match the suite, a replacement leather panel wasn’t fitted.

Which? Legal advice

Sam contacted our lawyers for legal advice. We told her that her claim was against SCS for selling a suite that wasn’t of satisfactory quality as it hadn’t proved durable. We explained that, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, if goods aren’t of satisfactory quality, a retailer can offer to carry out a repair, but it must be done in a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience. SCS hadn’t done this, so she could rescind her contract with the store and ask for a partial refund.

What Sam did next

Sam went back to the local trading standards office, asking it to tell SCS that she wanted it to collect the suite and give her a refund. Instead, SCS offered her a replacement but she replied it had had ample time to repair or replace the suite.

The outcome

In October 2011, the company agreed to collect the suite and refund Sam all of her money (£5,490).

When you buy a new mattress, you’d expect it to last a number of years. So when the springs broke on Robert Raynham’s mattress after less than two years, he was understandably annoyed.

Robert bought the £380 Dorlux mattress from Essex Beds in Chelmsford in January 2009. By December 2010 the springs had broken. Robert wrote to Essex Beds about the problem and its representative agreed that the mattress has suffered a manufacturing defect. Essex Beds said that Dorlux was happy to provide a replacement but, as the fault was within a five-year ‘chargeable warranty’, Robert would have to pay a £139 usage charge.

Which? Legal advice

Robert contacted our lawyers for advice in handling the situation. On our recommendation, he rejected Essex Beds’s offer on the grounds that the mattress wasn’t of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose, and asked for it to be replaced free of charge.

When he failed to receive a response, Robert sent Essex Beds a pre-action letter stating that if it didn’t settle his claim, he’d issue proceedings 
in the small claims court.

Essex Beds responded by saying that the mattress was only covered against fault within the one-year 
guarantee. After that, any repair or replacement was at the discretion of the 
manufacturer. It said the offer to replace the mattress stood but the charge would rise if Robert didn’t accept within six months. It added that if Robert issued court proceedings, the firm would counter claim its legal costs.

Following further advice from our lawyers, Robert informed Essex Beds that he was claiming not under a warranty, but under the Sale of Goods Act 1979. Our lawyers advised that Essex Beds were wrong to charge a usage fee so Robert again wrote to Essex Beds, setting out the facts and legal basis of his claim, and spoke to Dorlux.

Outcome

Dorlex replaced the mattress for free, through Essex Beds, in July 2011.

When Mark Dawson’s fridge-freezer stopped working after 28 years, he knew 
he’d be unlikely to find one that could last as long.

But he hadn’t expected the new fridge-freezer he bought to fail after just 24 hours – nor for the replacement model provided by the store to fail just as quickly.

When Mark visited his local Currys electrical store in November 2010 to buy a fridge-freezer, he told the salesperson that it was for use in his garage. The salesperson recommended a Frigidaire model, costing £209.94, which Mark bought.

The fridge-freezer was delivered and placed by the delivery team in Mark’s garage. It was fine for 24 hours, but then stopped working.

What Mark did

When Mark reported the problem to the store manager, Currys agreed to replace the fridge-freezer. Again Mark explained that the fridge-freezer was for use in his garage. So when the replacement failed in the same manner as the previous one, Mark did some research and discovered that the fridge-freezer he bought was not designed to work in a cold environment.

When Mark asked the store manager what Currys intended to do about this problem, he was told to write to the customer relations team of DSG Retail Limited – the company that operates the Currys shops.

Which? Legal advice

Mark then contacted Which? Legal. Our lawyers advised Mark that it was likely that DSG 
was in breach of contract as the fridge-freezer he bought was unsuitable for the specific location he had told its salesperson he wanted it for. We recommended that he ask DSG for a refund, but DSG refused. 

What happened next

We advised Mark on how to issue legal proceedings against DSG for breach of contract and misrepresentation. In response DSG offered to repair the fridge-freezer, pay his court costs and a further £20 in compensation. Mark rejected this offer, explaining that the fridge-freezer was never going to work in the winter in his garage and was, therefore, unfit for the purpose he had bought it for.

He told Currys that he felt its salesperson had mis-sold the fridge-freezer and what he wanted was a refund so that he could buy a fridge-freezer that would work properly in his garage.

Outcome

DSG apologised to Mark for the way it had treated him and refunded the full cost of the fridge-freezer.

Can you get your money back if you buy goods abroad and something goes wrong?

Which? Legal member Catherine Ward bought an 18-carat gold emerald ring while on holiday in Colombia, only to find when she got home it had a fault that made it unwearable.

Catherine bought the ring as part of a set costing £1,935, while on a cruise through South America. As she purchased it abroad it seemed it might be difficult to get her money back. Thankfully, our lawyers helped her recover the full cost. The problem was discovered when Catherine got home to England and took the ring to a jeweller to have the emeralds authenticated.

The jeweller found a fault that had caused a chip in one of the emeralds. This meant Catherine couldn’t wear the ring for fear of causing further damage or losing one of the stones.

The jeweller estimated it would cost £1,200 to have the ring remade to prevent the stones from damaging each other.

It would have been difficult to seek a remedy from the seller in Colombia so, as Catherine had bought the ring using a credit card, she asked its issuer, the Co-operative Bank, for help. But Catherine says it refused and suggested she pay for the repairs herself. At this point she came to Which? Legal for help.

Our advice

Our lawyers confirmed that even though Catherine had bought the ring in Colombia she could still go to the Co-operative Bank with the claim. We suggested she write to the bank again, this time stating her legal position and requesting it offer remedy as it had to.  The Co-operative Bank agreed to pay the repair cost and Catherine got back the remade ring at the end of 2014, a year after her trip to Colombia.

The law

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 makes the credit card issuer liable, along with the seller, if there has been a breach of contract or misrepresentation. This applies to goods worth more than £100 and up to £30,000, where you paid at least part of the price on a credit card. The card issuer would be liable to offer a solution to you in such a situation and you could seek either a refund, or a repair or replacement of the item. For any purchases made abroad, your rights would be subject to local law, which would differ from UK laws. But the card issuer would probably consider whether the circumstances amounted to a breach of contract or misrepresentation under UK law.

Which? Legal member has to remind Boots of her rights after it denies her a refund or replacement

When Which? Legal member Vicky Drazhner’s reading glasses from Boots Opticians broke after just four months it refused to repair or replace them.

It said that as she hadn’t purchased a warranty, she’d have to buy a new pair, although she’d be entitled to a discount.

Vicky wasn’t happy at the idea of paying for new glasses so quickly, but she had to show the opticians the Sale of Goods Act, which set out her rights, before Boots agreed to send the glasses to the manufacturer to be assessed.

Vicky had been without her glasses for 18 days when Boots contacted her to say the manufacturer had returned them in the same condition. It had been unable to provide an assessment report to determine whether the glasses were defective or Vicky had damaged them.

She was again told that Boots wouldn’t repair or replace the glasses as it did not think there was a manufacturing fault. She complained to the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), a free mediation service that tries to resolve disputes between opticians and consumers. But it couldn’t provide a resolution and the case was closed.

Our advice

Vicky contacted Which? Legal. We confirmed her rights under the Sale of Goods Act and advised that as Boots had already had the chance to inspect the glasses and failed to prove its case, she could get an impartial expert to inspect them to see if she could claim a manufacturing fault. Rather than do that straight away, because she didn’t want to be without her glasses, Vicky wrote to Boots Opticians again saying she didn’t agree with its analysis and if she didn’t receive a satisfactory resolution she’d consider legal action. Boots offered a full refund of £229, which she accepted.

What the law says

The Sale of Goods Act says goods should be of satisfactory quality. This includes durability. In the six months after purchase, the onus is on the supplier to prove that the defect wasn’t there when you bought the item. You’re entitled to a repair or replacement – the retailer is likely to choose the most cost-effective option. If a repair isn’t possible or would be disproportionate in price, you may claim a refund, reduced to take into account the use you’ve had. If, like Vicky, you face a situation in which a firm won’t repair or replace, you can then go to the relevant complaints service. In this case, the OCCS deals only with the financial/ contractual part of the supply of glasses.