Loyal Amazon customer, Lee Hayward was furious when the online retailer refused to refund him for a wireless Bluetooth headset which didn’t measure up to the sales pitch.
The 37-year-old Portsmouth data analyst’s bone of contention with the multi-national digital business all began when he ordered in mid-November a hands free Bluetooth water-resistant headset from Amazon marketplace.
Lee was particularly attracted to the product because he could use the Bluetooth facility to listen to music or the radio while he was at work.
The sales puff claimed the headset had a standby charge of eight hours, but when it finally arrived he was bitterly disappointed to find they would only work continuously for four hours before they needed recharging.
Lee said: ‘Usually I am pretty good at getting refunds and compensation where its due – however this one proved impossible.
‘I contacted the Amazon seller in late December who agreed a refund and authorised the return to an address in China.
‘I sent it back via the Post Office, and obtained proof of postage. I waited two weeks and no reply, so I contacted the seller again with a copy of the proof of posting but they denied they’d received it.’
Miffed, Lee got in touch with Amazon’s customer service team.
As he’d paid up front from his Amazon account he put in his claim for a refund of £55.99 for the headset plus the return postage of £80 via their comprehensive ‘buy with confidence’ A-Z guarantee.
The guarantee applies to purchases made on Amazon’s third-party websites, and covers products that are defective, damaged, or misdescribed.
The small print (T&Cs) requires buyers to meet a number of specified conditions, and as far as he was concerned they applied precisely to his situation so he thought he was home and dry.
But Lee’s confidence proved to be misplaced, when Amazon refused to accept the claim.
What got under his skin was an outright refusal to provide the reason why it had been rejected, and being blanked by the firm’s customer services.
He says he first emailed them at the buyer guarantee address on two occasions and received a promise that someone would get back to him with an explanation, but it turned out to be an empty gesture.
Determined not to be fobbed off, he got on to their online chat facility and extracted another promise that his case would be raised internally and he’s receive a reply within 48 hours.
During the course of a number of conversations with them about the claim he obtained a further promise that the refund would be sanctioned by one of their advisors.
But Lee’s blood pressure shot up when he discovered the promise had gone the same way as the first one when out of the blue he received an online notice of rejection.
He says it was claimed the promise was a mistake and should never have been made so he promptly asked for a copy of the transcript of his conversations with their customer services staff but that request also fell on deaf ears.
In exasperation he got onto Amazon’s Twitter account, leaving a note on their feed in the hope to speed things up but that brought no joy either.
The refusal to pay out the £135.99 claim was beginning to rankle but his frustration turned to anger when it emerged that it had been turned down because he hadn’t provided Amazon with a tracking number for the returned package.
Totally frustrated at being given the run-around, Lee contacted Streetwise to ask if we could help him get the disputed sorted.
We first looked at Amazon’s A-Z guarantee small print and found its claim conditions to be refreshingly free of legal gobbledygook and easily understandable.
We forwarded Amazon Lee’s complaint about the way he’d been treated and asked them to comment.
Initially, we were given the same ‘no tracking number’ response, but we asked the firm to reconsider Lee’s unfairness claim on two grounds.
As the headset had been misdescribed Lee had an absolute right to reject it in law and obtain a refund. The ‘no tracking number’ stipulation could be considered a barrier to his statutory rights and therefore unenforceable.
Secondly, the tracking number condition was listed in a note at the very bottom of the T&C’s and in our view not given sufficient ‘in your face’ prominence with the returns procedure.
After giving our points due consideration Lee received an emphatic reassuring email from Amazon’s customer services to confirm he was covered by the guarantee and would be promptly refunded.
A spokesperson said: ‘Amazon.co.uk Marketplace is safe, secure and guaranteed. Payment within the Amazon.co.uk site is the only authorised and recognised form of payment for items sold by Sellers on Amazon.co.uk. Every customer who orders on Amazon.co.uk is covered by our A-to-Z guarantee.’
Lee told us he was gratified that his six-week refund battle with the firm was over, and as far as he was concerned his complaint had finally been sorted.
‘I appreciate your help,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t have got anywhere without you.’