Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I asked for a catalogue from a national mail order company and with it came a letter offering me a free set of saucepans on placing my first order. The order arrived, but there were no saucepans. I rang the company and was told by one of its customer service people that there was no such offer. I sent them a copy of the offer letter, but I’ve not received a reply. Can you help please?
A I asked you to send me a copy of the letter you received with your catalogue and it came by return.
I then rang the mail order company for you and spoke to a marketing manager. She said that to her knowledge, the company could not have made you this offer as it was only directed at established customers. The attitude was not constructive but rather dismissive.
I then said I would fax a copy of the offer letter you had received from them to prove beyond doubt that it had been made. In any event I reminded her you could not have possibly known about the offer, unless you had been told about it.
Within 10 minutes of sending the fax, the company phoned to say they were dispatching the saucepans to you by return and apologised for any distress or inconvenience.
It looks as if an operative had printed and sent you the wrong standard-type letter, making an offer which was intended for you a bit farther down the purchasing line.
The failure to deal with your complaint until I intervened does not bode well.
Maybe you should consider doing business in future with one of the company’s competitors.
Q I bought a Pompey Cup Final Winner watch from Danbury Mint in late 2008, which cost £150. My husband took it to a watchmaker at the end of last month to have what he thought was the battery replaced. It was then discovered that it wasn’t a battery problem, it needed a new component costing £55. Where do I stand with this please?
A It is understandable you were clearly miffed at buying quite an expensive watch needing a costly repair amounting to more than a third of the original purchase price after only three years’ use.
I think I’d probably feel the same way, and I’d remind myself that the law about the quality of goods requires that – depending on the purchase price – they should last for a reasonable time.
The only snag as far as I can see with your complaint is that instead of first giving Danbury Mint a chance to quote you for the repair, you went ahead and asked the watchmaker to do it.
With hindsight you now recognise that was probably the wrong way to go about it. This was confirmed by Danbury Mint, which said if you’d returned the watch to the company, it could have repaired it cheaper.
If you have a problem with faulty goods, the law expects you to first let the supplier try to remedy the defect. This usually amounts to a free or low-cost repair or, in extremis, a replacement or refund.
The moral to this story is that if anything you buy stops working, then you must give the supplier the first option to repair, replace, or refund your money. If not they’re perfectly entitled to leave you pick up the cost.
Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.