Faulty advice on faulty goods

Ahead of Christmas and the January sales, a new Which? investigation has revealed some retailers are giving misleading advice to consumers on returning faulty goods.

Our mystery shoppers visited or called six leading electrical retailers across the UK, making 72 visits to speak to shop-floor staff and 45 visits to talk to managers, about a faulty product that was out of warranty.

Our consumer rights lawyer then rated the information that was given to our mystery shoppers from ‘excellent’ where staff gave accurate advice, to ‘very poor’, where it was explicitly denied that we may have rights.

In our shop floor visits, we found:

  • Apple fared the best with 9 out of twelve visits rated fair or better. Currys was the only retailer to score an excellent rating for one of its shop-floor staff. The employee clearly explained our rights and gave us detailed information on the options we could pursue to fix or repair the faulty product.
  • Argos had the lowest score with only three visits rated as fair or better by our consumer rights legal expert. The score is a slight improvement from our investigation last year in which the retailer scored fair or better in two of the visits.

In our discussions with managers, we found:

  • Of the 10 visits to Apple managers nine were rated fair and one as good, giving Apple the highest score in our investigation. Currys managers also scored highly with 10 out of 11 visited rated as fair or better, with two visits being scored as excellent.
  • Richer Sounds was among the lowest with only one out of four visits being rated as fair or better. Our mystery shoppers found it difficult to get hold of managers in stores and on several occasions we were told a manager was unavailable. Out of the three visits rated poor or very poor, one of the managers incorrectly told us it was up to the manufacturer ‘to do something’.
  • Amazon also scored poorly when we called and asked to speak to a manager, with only two out of five calls being rated as fair or better. Advice we received from managers was mixed and rated from very poor to good.

Since our results were revealed to the companies we investigated, some firms, particularly Richer Sounds, have been actively working with us to improve.

The Which? Consumer Rights website has free advice and information on your rights when returning faulty goods as you may be entitled to some form of redress from the retailer, even if the warranty has expired.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“While it’s clear major retailers have improved their consumer rights knowledge since our previous investigation, it is still unacceptable that customers could be left out of pocket by following incorrect advice. Stores must ensure the information staff are giving is correct.”

Notes to editors

1.    The results from our latest faulty goods investigation can be found here.

2.    The results from our January 2014 faulty goods investigation can be found here.

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