CONSUMER: Shopper's anger as she is refused refund after UGG boots ruined in the rain

A Fareham couple were shocked and disgusted at the dismissive way they were treated by UGG after they discovered their expensive fashion footwear wasn't fit to be worn in the wet.

Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 7:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:47 am
Jean Crabb with her UGG boots which have a water stain after she wore them out in the rain Picture: Malcolm Wells (180516-8907)

Jean Crabb was attracted to the firm’s popular range of designer boots, so last December her husband Brian accompanied her to their Portsmouth Gunwharf Quays outlet to buy her a pair for Christmas.

Jean knew UGG boots were the last word in stylish women’s fashion footwear.

They’d been trendsetters for almost two decades and became an instant hit with worldwide celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Kate Moss, and Jennifer Aniston.

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Jean Crabb with her UGG boots which have a water stain after she wore them out in the rain Picture: Malcolm Wells (180516-8907)

Jean initially came away thrilled with a pair of £107 ‘Classic Short’ boots. But her delight was shortlived when a few months later she wore them on a brief trip to the local shops and got caught in a shower of rain.

When she got home she left the boots to dry, but was horrified when she discovered they’d been ruined by an unsightly, irremovable watermark stain.

The couple’s dismay with the designer footwear chain emerged after they realised they weren’t warned at the time of sale the treasured sheepskin boots aren’t waterproof and could only be worn in the dry.

They were only intended to be a fashion statement, not conventional footwear for normal everyday use.

‘There weren’t any user instructions or product care information in the box,’ the retired housemother explained, ‘and I didn’t see any warning signs in the store.

‘I hoped they’d dry out but they didn’t so I went back to the shop to ask for them to be replaced or a refund, but the manageress said there was nothing she could do.

‘If I wanted to complain they have an email address, so that’s when Brian took over.’

Brian’s back went up immediately after making a complaint when it became clear no one from the firm was listening.

‘When I emailed,’ he said, ‘they asked me to send them a photograph but insisted that as the boots weren’t covered by their warranty they weren’t prepared to consider our complaint.

‘We weren’t told about any warranty at the time which we presumed was some form of guarantee. As far as we were concerned they weren’t fit for purpose.

‘All the ongoing complaints I raised with them about not being given any product information were never answered as such.

‘It could all have easily been avoided if they’d just put a note in the box, but there was nothing.

‘It’s not as if UGG footwear is cheap, they’re considered the best generally, but if they’d said if you go out they mustn’t get wet or they’d get damaged Jean wouldn’t have bought them.’

When the couple asked Streetwise to intervene, our background enquiries revealed UGG were part of the American-based worldwide fashionwear group Deckers Brands Global, a corporation whose headquarters are in New York.

We weren’t impressed in the slightest about the dismissive way the Portsmouth store handled Jean’s complaint and concluded they were engaged in an evasive buck-passing exercise potentially flouting Jean’s statutory rights.

Streetwise looked over the only email response Brian received and learned what he’d been up against.

He couldn’t converse with a real person, but only exchange complaining emails.

We got onto the firm’s head office media enquiries department and explained that the couple had a legitimate complaint which hadn’t received a remotely satisfactory answer.

A senior consumer experience specialist had admitted to Brian the boots weren’t sufficiently durable to be worn in the wet and their warranty didn’t cover water damage.

We took the view that, although undoubtedly popular, the boots were little more than upmarket slippers with ideas above their station.

They failed the legal test of satisfactory quality and fitness for all the purposes goods of a particular kind were normally bought.

Jean had been perfectly entitled to ask for the footwear to be replaced or her money back.

From what the couple had told us, fair trading regulations had also been flouted.

Traders were required to adequately describe and provide sufficient essential information about goods offered for sale so that consumers could arrive at an informed decision before parting with their money.

We asked the Deckers Corporation on three separate occasions to comment, but although each email request was read by a press officer, they declined to answer.

We were left to tell the couple we’d received the corporate cold shoulder treatment, leaving them with two remaining options – see UGG in court or write the matter off to experience.

‘At the end of the day we’re not so much worried about the cost or getting a replacement,’ Brian said. ‘We can put it down to experience.

‘But these are very profitable boots and thousands of people must be buying them. It’s incredible that nobody else seems to have come up with the same problem.

‘It would be easy for us to say ‘well, let’s forget it, and just walk away’. I’ve taken a lot of grief over this but I wouldn’t like other people to go down the same road. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.’

Streetwise was uncomfortable with the fact that UGG appeared to be in the dark about significant aspects of compliance with consumer rights and fair trading law.

Portsmouth city trading standards have been alerted.