This August, I decided to splash out on a mobility scooter as I can no longer get around and miss the great outdoors.
I decided on a lightweight model from a reputable brand which accommodated my weight and was easily foldable. This was crucial for me. I bought the scooter from a third-party seller on Amazon for £1,600.
The day it was supposed to be delivered, I stayed in all day – as I do most days as I am virtually housebound. It never arrived. Somehow, the scooter ended up in London, 100 miles from where I live. It seemed I was given someone else’s tracking number.
Weeks later, a delivery person arrived and said they had a parcel but I had to pay customs duty of £100. I refused delivery.
When I finally got the scooter, my son came over to open the box. The first thing we noticed was a large crack in the plastic and lots of scuffs.
Great outdoors: This reader wanted to buy a scooter to get out and about, but the model she ordered was not what arrived
I then realised it was not the make or model I ordered, but a much cheaper-looking one. The user manual was gibberish, there was no branding, the weight capacity was lower than advertised and it wasn’t easily foldable. We also found out we would have to assemble it – not just putting the pieces together but also connecting wires ourselves.
This scooter was useless to me so I contacted the seller. He said the scooter may be an ‘upgrade,’ in other words a used second-hand product. I requested a refund via the Amazon website and he ‘accepted,’ but separately sent me a message telling me not to return it as he would not send back the money. He said that as I had taken it out of the box, he couldn’t resell it.
I tried to claim with Amazon and sent evidence, but it said that I had been sent the correct item, undamaged, and closed the case.
Desperate, I spoke to a scooter dealer asking if they would buy it from me, but they said no as it was a ‘cheap import’ and worth ‘peanuts’. The scooter is still sitting in a box in my porch and I really need my money back. Anonymous, via email
Helen Crane of This is Money replies: Lots of the emails I receive from readers that have gripes with companies make me angry, but this one really got my motor running.
It makes my blood boil to think that there are unscrupulous sellers out there taking advantage of people who need a bit of help to get around – so I was very sorry to hear of your experience.
You’d bought items on Amazon plenty of times before, so you assumed the purchase would go without a hitch. For better or worse, plenty of us rely on the website to get us what we need quickly and at a good price – especially at this time of year.
CRANE ON THE CASE
Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.
Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:
You spent a lot of time doing your research and finding a scooter that would suit your needs, but this turned out to be a wasted effort as the product that turned up bore little resemblance to the one you ordered.
In mobility scooter terms, you ordered a brand new Mercedes and instead were landed with a clapped out old banger.
All products sold online should be as advertised, but when buying mobility aids such as these it is especially important.
With the wrong weight limit and large cracks in the casing, you could have been seriously hurt if you tried to use this scooter. That is if you managed to put it together at all, given the need for you to connect fiddly wires – which again is not what I would call safe.
You’d been looking forward to getting out and about in the last of the summer’s warm weather, but were left stuck in the house with a box of useless parts.
You even called the manufacturer of the scooter you had wanted to check whether this was a product of theirs. It confirmed what you already knew – this was nothing but a cheap knock-off.
You made a perfectly reasonable request to send the scooter back, but the third-party seller refused on the grounds that the box had been opened.
Thinking outside the box: The seller refused to refund the money for the scooter as it had been taken out of its packaging
While some retailers do stipulate that items must be returned in their original packaging, they shouldn’t require this if the item is not of satisfactory quality – which it quite clearly was not.
What’s more, since you asked to send the scooter back you have received a barrage of messages from the seller, which have made you uncomfortable as they have your home address.
While your scooter saga started with the online seller, Amazon had a responsibility to step in and sort it in my view.
By allowing this company to trade on its vast platform, it is leaving customers at risk of receiving shoddy and unsuitable products.
The online giant does have a guarantee scheme, called A-Z, which is supposed to help customers in situations such as yours.
If someone has a problem with an item sold and fulfilled by a third-party seller, and the seller doesn’t resolve it, they can make a claim with Amazon to get their money back directly.
There are several situations where customers can make a claim, including if an item is ‘damaged, defective, or not as described’ – as yours was.
It’s supposed to inspire confidence in customers buying from the thousands of small businesses that sell on Amazon, but in your case it did anything but.
You lodged an A-Z claim, and provided evidence including pictures of the sketchy scooter, only for Amazon to come back and say you had been sent the correct item, undamaged. It then closed your case, leaving you £1,600 down, stressed out and with nowhere else to turn.
Rejected: Our reader lodged a refund claim online under Amazon’s A-Z guarantee, but it was turned down and she is still £1,600 out of pocket (stock image)
You’ve continued to contact Amazon, including lodging an appeal back in October. It said you would hear back in seven days, but you never did.
I decided to contact Amazon to get to the bottom of this. It said that when you made the A-Z claim, you hadn’t ‘appeared to’ provide the right evidence.
You have told me the documents you sent, which appeared to me to be the right ones – but once you had re-supplied them, I am pleased to say Amazon has paid you back the £1,600.
You’ve said the money will make your Christmas a bit brighter, which I am very pleased to hear.
I also asked Amazon if it would take any action to remove the scooter seller from its website, to stop this happening to anyone else.
It told me it had issued the company with an official ‘warning’ and would continue to monitor the situation.
While this error certainly wasn’t your fault, this sorry scooter story does show the value of going direct to the manufacturer if you’re making an important purchase.
You sadly missed the chance to scoot around this summer, but hopefully with your money returned you can get a new ride sorted by the time the sun comes out next year. I wish you all the best.
Which companies are on the nice list this year?
Week in and week out, I help This is Money readers right the wrongs that companies have done them – and I am glad to do it.
But I also like to highlight those that are going above and beyond to help their customers, whether that means showing them they are valued with small gestures, solving problems quickly or just providing a great service.
As this year has gone on, that has become more difficult. At a time when the cost of almost everything is going up, I understand that it is hard to find good words to say about the firms that are taking more of your hard-earned money.
But I know that there are companies out there doing what they can to help their customers in these difficult times, or at least making it a little less painful to hand over their cash.
As we approach the end of 2022, I’d like to hear about your customer service stars of the year. Whether that is an energy company, a delivery firm or a small business – or just about anyone – I want to know about it.
Examples so far have included supermarkets handing out food vouchers to vulnerable people, a bank helping victims of economic abuse, and a rucksack retailer offering free replacements years after the original purchase.
Get in touch with me on email@example.com, and you might see your shout-out published in a future column.