Coping with cop-outs and dealing with duds

Returning faulty goods can be a frustrating business
Returning faulty goods can be a frustrating business

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Nothing irritates shoppers more than finding something they’ve just bought is a dud.

Equally frustrating is if it packs up working within a few weeks, or expires just outside the guarantee period.

It’s not just the prospect of having to return the offending purchase to the store. It’s the time-consuming and debilitating battle with the retailer trying to insist you’re treated fairly.

Most of the big stores secretly ‘risk assess’ the chances of a consumer complaint about faulty merchandise.

They calculate that if they can fob you off with any number of excuses to disregard your statutory rights, they can protect their profits and send you on your way.

My sources confirm that retailers have a high cop-out success rate. As high as 70 per cent.

It’s only the most dogged, determined, and knowledgeable shoppers that are demanding enough not to be taken for a ride.

In terms of consumer confidence and the wider economy, retailers do themselves a disservice by short-changing their customers.

Streetwise readers can begin the fightback by recognising the top 10 retail cop-outs and insist they get a square deal when returning faulty goods.

1. You’ve not got a receipt – we can’t refund without it.

You should keep receipts, but any proof of purchase will do: a cheque stub, a credit card authorisation, or bank statement entry – all are sufficient proof.

2. It’s not company policy, you’ll have to get in touch with head office.

Company policy has nothing to do with it. If the law entitles you to a refund, replacement, repair, or compensation, that’s what you should get. Stick to your guns.

3. We can’t help – it’s out of guarantee and you should have bought our extended warranty.

A classic fob off. The law says that goods have to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and durable. These quality standards remain in force even after the manufacturer’s guarantee has run out. If your purchase goes belly up in less than six months, the retailer has to prove it wasn’t faulty when you bought it. You can claim for faulty goods for up to six years after purchase – provided they should last that long.

4. We don’t give refunds, but you can have a credit note.

It’s illegal to refuse a refund, replacement, or repair if goods are faulty. You don’t have to accept a credit note if you don’t want one. If you do accept a credit note, it may be time limited. Be sure to ask when it expires.

5. Nothing to do with us, you’ll have to get in touch with the manufacturer.

What’s the manufacturer got to do with it? You didn’t buy anything from them, so don’t buy this excuse.

6. You bought it in a sale, so we can’t give you a refund.

Your statutory rights are exactly the same for sale and secondhand goods. The law makes no distinction.

7. You’ve thrown the packaging away. We can’t take it back without it.

It’s the goods that are faulty – lack of packaging is no excuse to ignore your statutory rights. Don’t fall for it.

8. We can’t refund on presents – only the original buyer can make a claim.

Wrong. The law changed in 2000. Provided the buyer made it clear it was a present, anyone who returns a faulty product can insist their statutory rights are observed.

9. You didn’t bring the goods back within 28 days, so we can’t refund you.

There is no strict time limit for returning faulty goods, but to be on safe side you must take them back promptly.

10. We can’t give you your money back – we can only repair it.

If goods you buy fail within six months, the law says you’re entitled to a replacement, repair, compensation or, failing that, a refund.