Which? has issued a legal warning to Currys PC World over its practice of telling customers they have to pay up to £40 for a laptop setup which should be optional.
The consumer champion believes the retailer is continuing to rip off customers with the fees – charged when laptops bought online are picked up in-store – four years after the issue was first brought to its attention by Which?.
Which? has now written to Currys PC World outlining how the practice could breach UK and EU consumer law – and demanding prompt action is taken to stamp it out and reimburse customers who have wrongly paid the extra charge.
A year after Currys PC World pledged to clean up its act following a fourth warning from Which?, the consumer champion has heard of a series of cases where customers have been pressured into paying for the company’s Knowhow laptop setup service, even though they had not requested it.
Customers have found that despite reserving or purchasing laptops online at an advertised price, when they went to collect the machine in-store, they were told the pre-setup laptops were the only ones available.
They were then told they would have to pay an extra charge of up to £40 for the setup service.
Which? has now informed the retailer that it will consider pursuing “all available options” to ensure this unscrupulous behaviour is brought to an end.
Which? believes the practice could amount to ‘bait advertising’ – when a retailer lures someone into their store with the promise of a good deal, in the knowledge that they can’t honour the offer or there is only a limited supply of stock.
This is deemed an unfair practice under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
The retailer could also be in breach of Consumer Contracts Regulations, which require retailers to make the full price of a product clear to consumers for products bought online.
Which? is extremely disappointed that this practice continues – despite commitments by Currys to put a stop to it on the previous occasions Which? has raised the matter.
It is clear that the action Currys PC World has taken up to this point has in no way been sufficient and the company must now take immediate steps to to remedy this recurrent problem.
Since rebriefing stores has not been successful, Which? is now calling on the retailer to take more proactive steps, such as employee incentives, to ensure no more customers are asked to pay for a pre-setup laptop when that isn’t what they wanted, or what was advertised to them.
All customers who have already been forced to pay the charge should also be refunded promptly.
Eleanor Snow, Which? Consumer Rights Editor said:
“It is very concerning that Currys PC World has allowed this unscrupulous practice to carry on for four years – despite repeated warnings and overwhelming evidence that it may be in breach of consumer law.
“Previous efforts from the company to resolve the issue have been woefully insufficient, so we now want to see it tackle the issue head on so no more customers are left out of pocket unnecessarily.”
A spokesperson for Currys PC World said:
“On a small number of new laptops, we pre-install software to help customers who want to avoid waiting a few hours in store for the service or having to do it themselves at home.
“This is not something every customer needs and, where a colleague only has a pre set-up laptop in stock, our policy is absolutely clear that customers should be made aware and not be charged for the service. If any colleague is found to be charging customers for a pre set-up laptop in the absence of any other available stock, we will investigate accordingly and would ask for concerned customers to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a refund.”
Notes to editors:
- In November 2018, the Which? Conversation site included the following report:
“I went into Currys this evening to buy a laptop (which I had reserved online for £179.99). After waiting ages to speak to someone, I finally got to the till. When my laptop arrived, he told me it had been pre-setup. I asked what this meant and he explained. I said ooo that’s great, and he said… but it’s an additional cost of £40.
“I asked for an alternative laptop without setup (as on a student budget) and he told me this was the last one so I could either have it with set up or nothing.”
- In January 2019, this story was posted on the same page:
“I bought a HP Pavilion laptop from Currys/PC World in Hamilton ML3 on 11 January 2019. After resisting the barrage of up-selling I asked to buy the laptop on it’s own, £499. When the salesperson arrived with it he had one in the box with tape labeling on it, saying it had set-up and had a USB recovery drive for £20 extra. I was caught of guard and agreed, when he was putting it through the checkout it was £30 extra! When I complained, he reduced it to £20.
“When I got home and was using the laptop I realised there was USB stick in the box. HP only allow one recovery drive to be made so I experimented and the computer was going to let me make one. Clearly, a recovery drive had not been made in the shop.
“A visit next morning to the shop and a salesperson gave me the 32GB and I said I would do it myself. I feel I have been taken for a right mug, and my only consolation is I see I’m not alone.”
- Which? has raised this issue with Currys PC World multiple times since 2015, the most recent being in March 2018: https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/the-currys-pc-world-add-on-ripping-off-customers/
- The Which? Conversation piece can be found here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/currys-pc-world-set-up-service-complaints/
- Information on the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-protection-from-unfair-trading-regulations-2008
- Advice on how to complain if you’ve been misled by a special offer: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-complain-if-you-think-youve-been-misled-by-a-special-offer
A Currys PC World spokesperson said:
“We are investigating Which?’s findings and have emailed all 14,000 of our colleagues and management teams on an individual basis as a matter of urgency to remind them of our policy.
“On a small number of new laptops, we pre-install software to help customers who want to avoid waiting a few hours in store for the service or having to do it themselves at home. This pre set-up includes configuring key settings, automatic updates and provides a recovery tool.
“This is not something every customer needs and, where a colleague only has a pre set-up laptop in stock, our policy is absolutely clear that customers should be made aware and not be charged for the service. If any colleague is found to be charging customers for a pre set-up laptop in the absence of any other available stock, we will investigate accordingly and would ask for concerned customers to get in touch with us at email@example.com to arrange a refund.
“To provide some context, the total number of complaints since we last responded to you in March 2018 represents 0.03% of all pre set-up laptops sold during the year.”