Len Dastard, consumer law wrestler vs Debenhams

Eliz fin de semana, avid Bitterwallet readers and wrestling fans alike. I, Len Dastard shall tackle another consumer issue and apply my legendary grip, Estrangular el Caballo, to its throat - and death to your horse if you stand in my way.

Another interesting topic was put to Bitterwallet this week, when avid reader Sara emailed us to say that she had purchased a table and chairs from Debenhams in their online sale.

Debenhams were unable to send Sara the table - but they were able to send the chairs. Unfortunately, the table and chairs were two separate purchases which meant that they had their own contracts. Bummer. Or as we would say in Guadalajara - fondo sucio! Debenhams sent an email to Sara to say they didn't have the table in stock and would have to wait for further stock - by which time the table would have to be sold at full price - £330, instead of the sale price of £151.

Debenhams took the payment from when the order was initially placed, but the contract isn’t fulfilled until the product is dispatched (as is often the case in online orders). Debenhams are therefore able to rely on their Terms, specifically clause 2.3, relating to the unavailability of items:

2.3 We take payment from your card, when we process your order and have checked your card details. Goods are subject to availability. If we are unable to supply the goods, we will inform you of this as soon as possible. A full refund will be given if you have already paid for the goods.

Then 2.6 confirms when the contract is fulfilled:

2.6 The contract will be formed at the place of dispatch of the goods.

This would of course been a different matter if the table and chairs were under the same contract and sold as a set.

The big question you might be asking is this: "Len, surely Debenhams have to honour a sale price when a product comes back in to stock?" Alas amigo, they would not. My advice, Sara - try writing a polite letter to explain how disappointed you are and hope that they will honour this price when the item does come back in to stock.

More questions and queries, please! I devour them like platanos machos. Send your emails to [email protected]


  • Will
    Hola Len, 2 questions. 1) Would Sara be able to cancel the order of the table if Debenhams charged full price for it? 2) If Debenhams could not supply the table (or Sara could cancel the order of the table at full price) would Sara be eligible to return the chairs for a refund? i.e. if she did not get the table, its likely she would not want the chairs (I'm assuming they formed a set). Gracias amigo!
  • Len D.
    Will Good questions. 1) Yes. She would. Debenhams are only allowed to take from Sara's account the price that the table was advertised at. They wouldnt be able to realise their mistake and then take the unauthorised sum without getting Sara's unequivocal consent. 2) Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 it would be possible for Sara to return the order. With online orders you have a 7 day "cooling off" period. This doesnt cover ALL online purchases though. It is advisable that you check what products are excluded (some perishable goods and financial products etc). I hope that helps and muchas gracias senor!! Len
  • ohhai
    Len, other items excluded are items that are made to order, such as engraved or personalised items, this could potentially include the chairs (but for a company of Debenhams size I doubt it) Many places also allow you to return items in store, best to check first though
  • Debenhams
    Dear Sara, We are sorry you are so disappointed with the service you have received. We understand your points fully and would like to give you a £5 gift card by way of saying sorry. We will also happily allow the return of the chairs, providing you haven't sat on them yet. Yours faithfully, John @ Customer Services
  • Gunn
    I have found Debenhams have great customer service, I recently bought dinner set items on the sale but one item was out of stock, it came back after the sale ended and I went into shop said I tried to buy during sale and they said no problem and gave me the discount.
  • Steff
    lol John
  • Steff
    @ John - forgot to ask WTF IS DIS REAL?
  • dunfyboy
    You can return Debenhams stuff instore.

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