The Consumer Fightback column inbox is full of emails showing the kind of consumer problems that you are facing.
Some of these emails are from people who are confused about what their rights are where, unfortunately, they are not entitled to their money back.
Here are some common examples of misconceptions about purchases I hear and that have been dropping into the inbox, if you have a problem you would like help with email us at email@example.com with Consumer Fight Back in the subject line (see more details about what to send below).
Bought a top in a shop that you’ve now decided you don’t like? You aren’t automatically entitled to your money back, despite what many people think
1) The store had it priced at £50 and it was £500 but wouldn’t sell it to me for £50 but they must.
This commonly held misconception is sadly not true. A price tag is an invite to treat. The trader is therefore not bound by the incorrectly priced tag. It is up for negotiation, though, so you can always try and haggle on any price.
Also you may find that some companies will honour the incorrect price, a supermarket often will do but remember it doesn’t have to do so, it will depend on a company’s policy.
2) I ordered an item from an Amazon seller and then get told it was out of stock. It went back into stock but at a higher price, I think I should have it at the lower price.
Although very annoying, so long as the company refunded you the money there is nothing you can do, as there has been no breach of consumer law. If the company were doing this frequently, the practice would soon backfire and many people would simply not buy the product.
A company doing this frequently could be considered to be using unfair practices to make sales. It is similar to buying that favourite top from the clothes shop and then it goes down in price a week later.
If a shop has got its price tag wrong, it doesn’t have to sell you the item at that price – some might do though, so haggle
3) I bought a pool cover and it has shrunk. The company has told me that it says on their website to allow 3% shrinkage but I didn’t see it and think I should get my money back
In this case, the warning was clearly shown on the website, on the page with details regarding how to measure for the cover. The lady asking me about this thought it had been hidden in another page only but unfortunately could not prove that. Had she been able to do then she may have had a case, as it could be considered an unfair contract term if it was hidden away. If there was no warning then you could use the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to say that it had not lasted a reasonable length of time and was not of satisfactory quality because it shrank.
4) I ordered a camera that was £200. They sent one retailing at £400, but now the company has told me I need to return the item. I think it is unsolicited goods so I should be able to keep the item.
Sadly not, just as if you receive an item addressed to someone else that came to your address, or ordered something from a company and weeks later you get a package out of the blue. These are not unsolicited goods and you are not entitled to keep them.
In this case the company has clearly stated that it has made a mistake, so you should return it. When a company appears to have made a genuine mistake like this you should contact the company, explain the situation and request that they arrange for the return of the item. This should be at no inconvenience or cost to you. Make sure you write and not ‘phone to arrange this. Give the company a deadline by which they should respond/collect/send pre-paid postage, after which you will dispose of the item.
Get help with your problem
Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, is writing This is Money’s new Consumer Fight Back column.
Helen is the author of best-seller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! and runs The Complaining Cow blog.
Helen Dewdney runs The Complaining Cow site and has written a best-selling book – she is here to help This is Money readers
Helen can help with your consumer complaints. Rather than do all the work for you, she will empower you to gain refunds, repairs, replacements or improved service by explaining how to complain and get results.
If you have a problem you need help solving, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with Consumer Fight Back in the subject line, include a short paragraph about your issue – if we need more details we will get in touch.
If the company fails to act, she will ask them why and what they plan to do.
5) I put a fridge freezer in an online ‘shopping basket’ from a well-known retailer which was advertised as free delivery, but waited for my wife to see. At 3pm the price of delivery had gone up to £30. That’s really deceptive. Why can’t I have it at the price at which I put it in my basket?
The site clearly states the varying costs for different times of delivery at different times of ordering. Your order is from when you pay not from when you put it in the basket. Although I don’t see why it should go up by £30, one can understand the need to allow some cost due to administration involved but they can charge what they like.
Free delivery suddenly turned into paid-for before you purchased? Unfortunately, you only qualify to get it when you buy – and the retailer can change things until you order
6) I bought a top to go with some trousers and when I got home I found that they didn’t actually match. I took the top back the very next day, still with the tag on, receipt and it hadn’t been worn but the store wouldn’t give me my money back
This is considered a change of mind after purchase. If the item was bought off premises, such as online, you do have 14 days to change your mind and inform the company and 14 days to send the item back under Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. (There are some exceptions to this).
However, if you bought the item on the premises then it is wholly down to the store’s policy on returns. Unless, of course, the item is not as described, not of satisfactory quality or didn’t last a reasonable length of time, in which case you can return it under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
7) I bought a pair of very expensive shoes just over two months ago and the heel fell off one of them when I wore them for the first time the other day. The store accepted that they were faulty but only offered a replacement of the same pair. I don’t want them now, I want a refund.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to a full refund on faulty goods up to 30 days from purchase. After that time the retailer can offer a repair or replacement. So, always try out the product within the first month to make sure it’s OK.
8) I bought a coffee maker and I have the packaging, I know the store where I bought it from and it was only a couple of days ago but the store won’t give me a refund because I don’t have the receipt, surely they have to because it is obvious I bought it there?!
Actually, you don’t need a receipt but you do need proof of purchase, so this could be a credit card bill or a loyalty card statement. The retailer should also be able to trace the transaction. But the retailer does not need to refund you if you do not provide any proof of purchase.
9) The retailer has gone bust and the television I bought from it has stopped working. But the manufacturer should repair it.
Unfortunately this is not the case. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 your contract is always with the retailer. So, when the retailer is still in business, it must sort out your refund, repair or replacement for faulty goods. (Refund for purchases made within 30 days and a repair or replacement after this time).
However, if the company goes into administration, liabilities do not change. In effect you would be added to the list of creditors, but right at the bottom. If you have a guarantee or warranty with the item you can try the manufacturer. If the item purchase price was more than £100 (and less than £30,000) and you paid on a credit card you may be able to claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 from your credit card company.
10) I paid a deposit on a kitchen but changed my mind. The company has cancelled the contract but won’t refund the deposit but shouldn’t it do so?
The company must to do what is fair. This would mean that it can keep an amount to cover its legitimate costs. Say, for example, it had started to make the kitchen cupboards but couldn’t sell them to another customer, then it would be entitled to keep part of the deposit to cover the loss. If, however, it is able to sell to another customer it is not so much out of pocket and should be able to return most of the deposit, retaining any costs incurred, such as administration.
If a company hides behind a contract term that says a deposit is not refundable it may be in breach of unfair contract terms in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and should be challenged, as it tilts the contract in favour of the retailer. You should ask how the retailer has calculated the cost of the deposit which it wants to keep.
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