The faulty goods fob-off

A new Which? investigation has revealed that some of the biggest UK retailers are fobbing off consumers by giving incorrect information on their rights.

Our mystery shoppers visited or called Amazon, Apple, Argos, Currys, Euronics and John Lewis 12 times, asking what they should do about a faulty laptop or TV that had been bought from the store but was just out of warranty. Under the Sale of Goods Act, if a product develops a fault before it would reasonably be expected to do so, shoppers can claim against the store rather than the manufacturer, even beyond the warranty period.

On 56 of the 72 occasions, staff stated or gave a clear impression that we didn’t have any rights against the retailer or referred us to the manufacturer even though the retailer may have been obliged to repair or replace the item for free. In a recent Which? survey, we found just one in five people (21%) correctly identified that the retailer could be responsible for a faulty product after the warranty has expired, so we believe it’s vitally important that stores give shoppers the right information.

Of the 12 calls made to Amazon, nine were rated very poor by our consumer lawyer, while both John Lewis and Argos had seven visits rated as very poor. In each of these cases staff denied that we had any rights with the retailer, often directing us to the manufacturer for recourse instead.

Our investigation found that Amazon, Argos, Euronics and John Lewis could be breaching consumer protection regulations because information given by their staff was misleading. This could leave people out of pocket if they pay to get items repaired themselves when the retailer could be responsible, depending on the circumstances.

Currys and Apple were ranked the highest in our investigation, but both still only received satisfactory ratings for five of the 12 visits on the information we were given. None of the retailers scored an excellent rating.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“It is unacceptable that customers could be left out of pocket by following incorrect information from major retailers about their shopping rights. Stores must ensure that the information their staff are giving is correct.”

Consumers can get clued up on their rights by visiting the free Which? consumer rights website, which has practical advice and helps people know what they are entitled to.


Notes to editors

1.     Our mystery shoppers visited or called Amazon, Apple, Argos, Currys, Euronics and John Lewis 12 times asking for guidance on a faulty laptop or television that had been bought in store but was just out of warranty. See the complete result of our investigation here.

2.     We surveyed 2,066 UK adults from 27 to 29 September 2013 and asked them to identify who they could apply to for remedy for a faulty product, after the warranty had expired.

3.     The Sale of Goods Act says:

–      Goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose

–      You can reject goods and get a refund on a faulty item if you discover the faulty early on – usually up to four weeks

–      Your contract is with the retailer, who you bought the goods from and not the manufacturer, despite what some retailers may say

–      Consumers have six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; in Scotland you have five years. If the issue occurs after six months the onus is on the consumer to show the item was not of satisfactory quality. You may need an independent expert’s report to do this.

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