Sofa shop tries to wriggle out of contract over broken chair

GOOD RESULT Roger Bird, 70, at home in Portchester sitting in the armchair that he bought from SCS at Hedge End which is at last to be replaced. Picture: Malcolm Wells (131915-1715)
GOOD RESULT Roger Bird, 70, at home in Portchester sitting in the armchair that he bought from SCS at Hedge End which is at last to be replaced. Picture: Malcolm Wells (131915-1715)

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Think lounge makeover, sofas, and carpets, and the odds are megastore furniture retailer SCS will be one of the top retailers that comes to mind.

SCS is short for Sofa Carpets Specialists – a Sunderland based company known to millions through their slick TV commercials, which boasts nearly 100 stores nationwide.

Seventy-year-old semi-retired Fareham company director Roger Bird and his wife had been impressed with their advertising, which instantly came to mind when they decided to treat themselves to a replacement three-piece suite.

After looking around the competition at Hedge End, they decided to return to the SCS store where they plumped for a £3,500 suite from their leather Lazboy Augusta range.

‘The salesman was charming,’ said Roger, ‘and told us the suite we had chosen was a superb one built for the American market so the fact that I’m a 17-stone lightweight wouldn’t be a problem.’

The new suite was delivered in February, but within three months Roger noticed an arm on the armchair and the seat had started to collapse.

He was confident SCS would see him right and replace the chair under its 12-month parts and labour guarantee, so he rang customer services to report the fault.

An upholsterer turned up and filled in a report to head office suggesting he could repair the chair by repacking the seat cushion and putting more padding in the arm.

Roger was not best pleased that their expensive purchase needed repairing after only a few months’ use, and insisted the chair was replaced. He made a note on the upholsterer’s worksheet to that effect and waited to hear from head office what they proposed to do.

When he’d not heard anything from them some three weeks later, his wife phoned head office and was promptly told there was a letter in the post.

Two identical letters then arrived saying SCS was not obliged to replace the chair and insisting it would be repaired.

Roger contacted Streetwise for advice.

We told him that in the circumstances the law gave him four options. The right to a repair, replacement, partial or full refund, or compensation and he should stand his ground.

Within a week or so, he received a reply from one of the firm’s customer service advisors saying they had a right to repair the furniture and they were referring the matter to the manufacturer.

Streetwise then intervened on Roger’s behalf, and reminded SCS that in law, goods they provided had to be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. They were clearly in breach of contract.

After such a short period of use, Roger was entitled to exercise his right to a replacement armchair.

A few days later, he received a call from the Hedge End store to say head office had changed its mind, and it was arranging to change the chair after all.

SCS assistant company secretary Lesley Sheraton told Streetwise: ‘On reviewing Mr Bird’s account we have agreed a replacement.’

Roger said: ‘The help and advice I received from Streetwise was much appreciated. Had you not been involved I’m sure they wouldn’t have changed the chair and hoped I went away.’

SMALL PRINT

Richard Thomson has worked for leading UK and European companies as a market research analyst, and in consumer education and protection with trading standards. Write or e-mail him with your consumer questions or to fight for your rights at richardjthomson1@sky.com. An individual answer cannot be guaranteed. Replies are intended to give help or advice, not a complete statement of law.