Bitterwallet takes Shop Direct shenanigans to OFT and Trading Standards
The wheels of consumer justice may turn painfully slowly, but they do seem to be inching their way round. Of course, they may just grind to a halt and fall off, but we'll take what we can get.
Remember our skirmish with Additions in April? The online catalogue store, part of the Liverpool-based Shop Direct group offered an external hard drive at a ridiculously low price. Unsurprisingly, the world and his wife attempted to purchase one (or many more) and, in a further lack of astonishment, Additions cited a misprice and cancelled all the orders.
However, although Additions refunded the cost of the hard drive (which they charged at point of sale), they kept hold of the £3.95 delivery fee they'd also charged per order. As far as we could tell, it wasn't just in the handful of cases that came Bitterwallet's way, but in all the instances reported by customers on Hot UK Deals. So Additions retained the delivery charge for a product that was never dispatched, and appeared to do so on a significant scale.
We waited the 60 day period allowed by the Distance Selling Regulations for Additions to refund the delivery charge, but it never came. It goes without saying Additions had no right to withhold the charge, but such a small amount of money could easily be overlooked by other customers, which begged the question - how much money owed to customers does Shop Direct have?
We asked Shop Direct's press department, who chose not to answer, so we took the complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), who did decide our (and your) complaints were worthy of a reply:
"Under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 (the EA02) the OFT, along with other enforcers such as local authority Trading Standards Services (TSS), has powers to seek undertakings and court orders to deal with infringements of a range of consumer protection legislation, including the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, where such a breach harms the collective interests of consumers.
"As the trader is based in the Liverpool area, the OFT is of the view that Liverpool TSS is best placed to monitor the activities of the trader to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation. The OFT has therefore contacted Liverpool TSS to highlight your concerns."
OFT did mention that if the action taken by Trading Standards is considered "informal" ("offering guidance, advice or warning the trader") then it doesn't have to report it, so let's hope a more serious tone is struck. At the very least, we'd hope to cause Shop Direct some mild irritation, like hearing Alan Carr on the radio, or bout of thrush. We'll follow the story to let you know what comes out it.