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Refusing to Accept Goods Returned

What if a company refuses to accept returns of goods or provide a refund under the Distance Selling Regulations?

Mr Smith had bought a bath and accessories online which was not fit for the purpose intended. However, he was refused a refund under the Company Returns Policy rather than being able or return the goods under the Distance Selling Regulations 

When the goods arrived, although it was a seated bath, the depth of the seat was hazardous for the intended users in the house; it was dangerous for the back of an elderly person. What was shown on the illustration advertised on the website did not suit the real-life purpose.

Before the purchase of the goods, Mr Smith called the Company to ask if they had a showroom where he could see the product in person. The Company had a showroom, but Mr Smith was not allow to visit the premises due to staff shortages.

Mr Smith began further communications with the Company. He purchased the goods and paid by debit card in good faith so that he would receive the product prior to the start of his buildings work.

Eight days later, Mr Smith received an email from the Company stating that the delivery would take longer than expected and this would now be a special delivery and would Mr Smith still like to go ahead with the new order. Mr Smith agreed as long as the order arrived within 3 weeks in time for the start date of the building works.

The bath ordered was required for calculations in the building works. The Company advised Mr Smith not to cancel contractors because the order was on schedule. The order arrived five days later after the buildings work began. In addition, the waste, a part of the order, was missing from this delivery. This was a considerable inconvenience and delayed the project further. As a result, the buildings work was delayed by one week.

When the goods arrived, Mr Smith realised that the bath was not fit for the purpose intended. Although it was a seated bath, the back of the seat (as shown on the illustration advertised on the website) was not suitable for the user. It was easy to discern the ease with which a person could misjudge the edge of the seat and fall into the bath – in particular an elderly person.

As a result, Mr Smith decided to return the goods on the same day using the Company’s original packing. He sent an email to the support team on the same day. The support team replied to Mr Smith that he would hear from them within 2-3 working days. He did not received this reply with this stated reply time period. Mr Smith called again for instructions on how to return the goods and was told to contact the support team again. Again, there was no reply.

Mr Smith investigated the website and saw the Returns Policy and instructions on how to return goods. He completed the forms he found on the website. However, he was unable to send the completed form due to technical reasons displayed by the website. (The form bounced back citing a code error.)

Mr Smith then took a screenshot of the completed form and posted that to the support team. Mr Smith emailed the support team twice, one of the emails marked as urgent.  He then received an email reply from the support team…

‘Dear Mr Smith, I am afraid that we cannot accept a return on this order as the bath, as you know, was a special order and special orders cannot be return or cancelled. Apologies, Thanks  Support Team’

Mr Smith raised a dispute with the Company as follows:…..

‘I have read the terms and conditions, returns policies and instructions.  

I have taken screenshots of the information in the advert at the point of sale i.e., pre-sale. I have also read the product information and delivery information associated with the product on the website.’

The details of the product description and delivery information in the product advert did not mention ‘special order’ or no refunds available on special order. The order was not made to our specifications and there was no mention that ‘special delivery instructions apply’ or ‘refunds would not apply’

At no point in our communications was it mentioned that the Refund Policy would not apply to special deliveries or our right to a refund would be void. Your consultant only requested whether I wanted to proceed with the order marked as urgent.

If I had known that the Returns Policy would be voided on this order, I would have cancelled our delivery and order and requested a refund at that point. It was only 6 days after the initial order.

This important information was not evident and was deeply written in the Returns Policy section: the average person would not know this at the point of sale. It is unreasonable and unfair that the support team did not disclose this information, and/or the Company was unfair not to disclose this information about this particular product on the website, especially as the product itself costs £619. Altogether, the total cost (including the accessories) to be refunded is £748.’

Our Consumer Legal Rights 

…You must offer a refund to customers if they’ve told you within 14 days of receiving their goods that they want to cancel. They have another 14 days to return the goods once they’ve told you.

…Customers have exactly the same rights to refunds when they buy items in a sale as when they buy them at full price…..

…You must refund the customer within 14 days of receiving the goods back. They do not have to provide a reason……….

…It is illegal to display any notice that deliberately misleads consumers or deceives them about their rights, for example a sign that says you do not accept returns or offer refunds….

Mr Smith is seeking legal advice and representation on how to proceed with his request for a refund.

Please note: This blog is a real issue submitted to Finest Law from Mr X.   It is here for information and educational purposes. You are advised to seek legal advice from a licensed practitioner if you have a similar legal concern.

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