News, Culture & Society

ASK TONY: Why won’t Currys listen to us over £150 headphones refund?

My grandson wanted wireless gaming headphones for Christmas, which cost £150. We ordered them on November 14 from Currys PC World. 

Unfortunately, at Christmas the family came down with Covid, so it probably wasn’t until late December that my grandson first used his headphones.

He found that they were extremely restrictive, giving him a headache within 15 minutes and leaving deep marks on the sides of his head.

Squeezed: Curry’s customer services refused to help when a reader complained about a pair of £150 headphones that left her grandson with marks on the side of his head

I contacted Currys’ customer services, waiting more than an hour on the phone to be told, politely, that I needed to speak to another department. 

After an additional 45 minutes, I spoke to a young man who told me that everyone was working from home and there were no senior managers available to help. 

He said there was a 30-day returns policy on the product, with no consideration for early ordering for Christmas. 

So, apparently, I should have opened the product immediately and tested it – even though it was a present.

I asked how to take the complaint further. I have tried emailing and writing, finally sending a letter by ‘Signed For’ delivery, but am yet to receive an answer.

J. D., Suffolk.

Tony Hazell replies: Currys does, in fact, provide extra leeway for returns over Christmas. On items bought between October 29 and December 24, returns may be made until January 14.

Currys says it recorded your first contact on January 16.

The rules say the product must be returned in its original packaging, unopened and sealed, with the receipt or proof of purchase. 

But headphones are complicated: there is the hygiene consideration once they have been worn, but fit and comfort are so personal that we cannot know whether they are suitable until we have put them on.

Ideally, you’d try a pair in the shop, but this was not possible. So Currys has decided to refund the £149.99 as a goodwill gesture – something which goes above and beyond its stated policy.

A spokesman says: ‘We were very sorry to hear that Mrs D and her grandson were not happy with the headphones they purchased.

‘Despite the product not being in pristine condition and outside of our extended returns policy on unwanted opened goods, on this occasion our customer services team has refunded Mrs D as a gesture of goodwill.’

Well done, Currys.

Smart meter’s given me an £800 shock 

I have lived with my child in my top-floor, two-bedroom flat for two years. It has a smart meter and I pay British Gas £45 per month.

When I moved in, British Gas said it would access my smart meter and my payments would be correct each month. 

Two years on, I have been given a bill of nearly £800 and am absolutely beside myself.

I’ve called many times and, after much research, have discovered that my smart meter is an old-style one that was not installed by British Gas so it would have never been able to access it.

I have asked many times for full paper statements to be sent to me, but I’m yet to receive any. And I can no longer access them on the app.

P. F., Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

Tony Hazell replies: Smart meters were supposed to banish issues connected with estimated readings, yet here you are with a massive bill because the smart meter turned mute.

British Gas says it sent a number of requests to you to provide meter readings, but you did not respond. 

It also says it does not recognise the £800 figure you mention in your letter. However, it adds that you have £645.35 unpaid energy between January 2019 and January 2021.

It has now applied back-billing rules to this, reducing what you owe by £396 to £249.35.

These rules basically say that as long as a customer has behaved in good faith and allowed access to their meter, then an energy firm will not back-bill more than 12 months. You have agreed to pay an extra £21 per month to clear what you owe.

British Gas has also referred you to the British Gas Energy Trust, if you would like to apply for a grant to clear the remaining balance.

Your meter was remotely upgraded in January, so British Gas can now take accurate readings.

Straight to the point

I visited Nationwide to add my son’s name to one of my accounts, but was told it was not offering that service due to a backlog of work. This seems unbelievable.

J. M., Cambridge.

Nationwide says the service was temporarily suspended to help branch staff cope with demand, with only limited exceptions. 

A spokesman apologises and says you will be able to add your son to your account later this month.

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broadband

How do I cancel Amazon Prime? I was offered a free trial two years ago and had no idea £7.99 would be taken every month thereafter.

V. E., Coventry, Warks.

Log in, go to ‘Your Account’, select ‘Prime’ and then ‘end trial and benefits’. After contacting Amazon, it’s agreed to refund you the £215.73.

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Tesco Mobile billed me £55 for extra data on top of my £5-a-month contract. But I thought my data usage was capped at £5.

J. C., Stourbridge, Worcs.

There has been a misunderstanding, as a £5 cap is not mentioned in the terms of your contract. But Tesco has now agreed to refund you £50 as a gesture of goodwill.

Will taxman come knocking over son’s cheap rent?

My wife and I have inherited the bungalow next door. We would like to rent it to our son, but at below the market rate for the area. Would this be acceptable to HMRC?

T. D., Coventry, Warks.

Tony Hazell replies: There’s nothing to stop you from doing this. The main wrinkle is tax-deductible expenses, which HMRC will usually restrict if you let at below-market rent to a connected person.

But you may wish to think about your longer-term plans. If the aim is eventually to give the property to your son, then an earlier gift could avoid Capital Gains Tax — this would be based on the difference between its value at the time of the gift and its value when you inherited it.

Trust arrangements may help, but these can be complicated so seek professional advice. 

An early gift also means a greater chance of you living the seven years necessary for it to fall out of the inheritance tax net.

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