Is your Christmas crap, well, crap?

3 January 2013

Now that all that yuletide kerfuffle is over, you might be thinking about getting rid of some of the crap you received in the spirit of goodwill. We gave you a quick rundown of your consumer rights of return last month, but what happens if your gift is faulty.

New figures released by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) show that, between April and November the consumer service in England and Wales dealt with over 400,000 complaints year about products and services worth a total of £3 billion. Over half of these cases concerned faulty goods and sub-standard services with an average cost of over £2,800.

This suggests that there are a lot of retailers out there selling a lot of crap. However, bearing in mind your consumer rights that a product must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, surely these people in possession of rubbish goods or services can just go back to the retailer for a refund, right?

In theory, yes, under consumer law retailers must give you either a refund, part refund, repair or replacement for faulty products. However in a CAB survey, 9 out of 10 people were not fully successful when they had complained, attempted to get a refund or get the problem put right.

The top ten most complained about faulty goods were:

Second hand cars bought from an independent dealer (you don’t say)

Upholstered furniture


Mobile phone handsets

Lap-tops, notebooks and tablet PCs

Used cars bought from a franchise dealer

Beds and mattresses

Fridges and freezers

Washing machines

Women’s clothing

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

"Many people will be disappointed by broken gifts this Christmas. But it’s even more frustrating and expensive when you can’t get your money back. By law retailers must offer refunds, repairs or replacements for faulty products but all too often this is not happening.  Household budgets are tight meaning many people don’t have the money to buy a new item if its broken and the seller has refused to sort it out.”

She continued: "Stronger, clearer consumer rights will help protect squeezed spenders from expensive purchases that go wrong, and will give businesses a boost as shoppers feel more confident parting with their hard-earned cash."

CAB are now campaigning for better and more transparent consumer laws to:

A clear 30 day time-limit for retailers to give refunds so consumers know where they stand.

An option for class action, which would allow groups of consumers to take businesses to court. This would give customers greater confidence, and would make it more worthwhile to take up smaller claims.

Clear information to be displayed when goods are bought. Some businesses try to apply their own returns policy to faulty goods when consumers should be protected under the law.

Greater powers for the Trading Standards services to get customers compensation without having to take businesses through the courts.

All good stuff. And if it all ties in with the Government consultation on the same subject, which closed on 31 December, 2013 could be a shining new horizon for consumer rights. Maybe.

As ever, don’t forget your ’Section 75’ rights, which mean that if you buy goods costing more than £100 on a credit card, the credit card company has the same responsibilities as the trader, so you can get your compensation from them directly should anything go wrong. Your quibble is always with the seller, not the manufacturer (unless you bought direct from the manufacturer).

TOPICS:   Consumer Advice   How To Guides

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