Pensioner Brian Green was horrified after a £6,300 Acorn stairlift he bought for his disabled wife stuck halfway down the stairs, leaving her at risk of slipping out of the seat.
A furious Brian, 76, says he was kept waiting for weeks by the firm’s engineers, who were unable to complete the lift’s annual service because they couldn’t obtain the necessary spare parts.
Five years earlier the couple found themselves under pressure to adapt their home when Brian’s wife Audrey ended up in hospital with serious injuries after missing her footing at the bottom of the stairs.
Anxious to obtain her discharge from hospital, Brian decided that, rather than move, it was time to invest in a reliable stairlift so Audrey could get around the house safely.
Acorn Mobility Services Ltd is based in Yorkshire and exports its products worldwide. It proudly claims that somewhere in the world an Acorn stairlift is installed every nine minutes.
An Acorn lift seemed the perfect answer for Brian and Audrey. But what clinched the deal was the firm’s assertion that its stairlifts effortlessly help mobility-impaired people to enjoy their homes to the full.
The lift was backed by a four-year peace of mind service contract, which included priority 24/7 service callouts and ongoing maintenance by professionally-trained, locally-based engineers.
Brian, who lives in Farlington, thought the original £1,495 three-star service contract price tag a bit steep.
It expired in March and he’d just forked out another £435 to Acorn for an annual renewal.
But an increasingly disillusioned Brian believes Acorn’s service plan never lived up to the promise.
He says: ‘I constantly had to remind them the service was due and each year it kept getting later and later. They told me I couldn’t get another firm to service the stairlift because they weren’t Acorn trained and they’d have to get the parts from it anyway.
‘An engineer finally turned up to do this year’s service and found some faults with the lift.
‘Although it was in working order, he couldn’t complete the repairs because he didn’t have the spare parts on his van.
Brian adds: ‘Three further phone calls later, I got a promise he’d be back in a few days and finish it off.
‘I asked the engineer whether the chair was safe to use in the meantime and he told me it would be all right.
‘Then to my dismay there was yet another call to say they still couldn’t fix it, but would let me know when the spare parts were available. We’d just have to wait.
‘Shortly afterwards I noticed as my wife was coming down the stairs the chair was on a bit of a slant. I didn’t think anything more about it until the following morning when it got stuck halfway and I thought she was going to fall out.
‘It’s just lucky I was around at the time and able to get her out of the chair to help her down.
‘I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t been there.
‘If she’d fallen out it could have been the end.
Brian explains: ‘My wife is totally dependent on the stairlift. But Acorn is taking us to the cleaners with its sky high charges, sloppy service and a customer helpline that’s as much use as a chocolate teapot.’
A concerned and frustrated Brian quickly dashed off a letter to Streetwise to ask if we could step in and help him get it sorted.
We immediately contacted Acorn managing director John Jakes, pointing out that Brian had good cause to complain as it appeared the company was in serious breach of contract.
It had failed to live up to the promise that aftercare was a top priority and that it made sure all its stairlift users were 100 per cent happy.
Acorn responded within a few hours, admitting it had fallen down on the job and not lived up to its advertised standards of service.
Company secretary Dave Belmont said: ‘We have spoken to Mr and Mrs Green and apologised for the delay in completing the work on their stairlift.
‘We pride ourselves on our customer service and on this occasion we let them down. We have retrained the staff involved and also agreed to upgrade the Greens’ existing stairlift free of charge and provide an additional two years’ warranty.
‘Whilst circumstances such as these are extremely rare, we always do what we can to ensure they are avoided in the future.’
Audrey told us Acorn had phoned her and was sending her a bouquet of flowers to say sorry for the distress she’d been caused.
She said: ‘They sell you these things for you to be independent in your own home and you should get the service you’re paying for.
‘Thank you ever so much for everything that you’ve done.’