Moda customer service: Gosport pensioners are enraged by garden furniture firm's refusal to offer refund

Gosport pensioner couple Jean and Brian Palliser have been kept waiting for nearly a year to see the back of a stressful stand-off with an online garden furniture firm.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 10:00 am
An example of rattan furniture - not the furniture in question from Moda

In August 2017 they believed they’d be sitting pretty for years to come on a luxury high quality rattan outdoor garden furniture set they’d ordered from Moda Furnishings of Manchester.

Among the claims that impressed them most was they were buying furniture built to last and backed by an industry-leading seven-year guarantee. All the furniture was designed for comfort, durability, and functionality, and had passed a rigorous final quality control inspection.

‘We decided to go with Moda because it was guaranteed for seven years and given we’re in our 80s believed seven years was right up our street,’ said Jean.

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But just two summers down the line they were disappointed when they noticed unsightly defects developing in the rattan but were devastated to discover the guarantee wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and left them sold short with dodgy replacement furniture.

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Jean said the £1,440.57 set was delivered in August so hardly used in the first year before it was time to pack it away for winter. The following year no problems with it came to light but in the summer of 2020, they felt obliged to notify Moda about number of faults with the coffee table rattan.

‘When we first reported the coffee table defects to their customer services they found they didn’t have an exact match so they sent us a similar table from another set.

‘But when a number of unsightly rattan defects emerged in several places in the modular sofa, they asked us to take some photos while they looked for a replacement set.

‘Moda then claimed they couldn’t find one so they offered us a more expensive £2,195 replacement non rattan set that could be left out in all weathers all year round but only on condition we agreed to pay the extra difference in price of £743 which we just couldn’t afford.

‘Basically,’ she said it was just pay up or be left hanging about indefinitely with a credit note for the £1,400.57 original price. If we didn’t buy anything else from them, we’d end up with nothing.’

However, after the family learned of their stressful situation they lent them the outstanding £743.43 for the replacement. It was delivered back in May, recalled Jean, but when their son-in-law unpacked it was found to be shoddy quality and transparently hadn’t been inspected prior to despatch.

‘Contrary to their impressive claims the table was chipped, the chairs although they looked comfortable, had an invisible big lump in the seat making them extremely uncomfortable to sit on, and the workmanship was deplorable.’

‘Even their delivery team who came to collect it admitted it wasn’t up to scratch,’ said Brian. We sent them photographs with a request for a refund but they adamantly refused. Customer services insisted they would only refund the difference between the credit note and the extra we paid for the set.’

It was at this point head office staff emailed them to concede the set was faulty, but they continued to insist the guarantee only entitled them to a credit note for a like-for-like replacement which Moda admitted they couldn’t provide.

The Pallisers found themselves in an invidious dilemma going around in circles but with nowhere to turn. They’d been wresting for months with a situation that had led them up a blind alley and should have been amicably sorted months ago.

Relations hit rock bottom following a final abortive effort to conclude the shambolic mess the couple had been subjected to all summer.

A promised delivery of a second replacement table and chairs they placed in June hadn’t materialised so with another lost summer behind them the exasperated couple had no hesitation in asking Streetwise for advice and challenge Moda to justify the way they had been treated.

Streetwise first headed to Moda’s online website to check out their impressive business claims and terms and conditions of sale.

We discovered many of the claims about compliance with the couple’s statutory rights, quality, and durability, didn’t stack up in the light of their experience. The furniture they bought didn’t remotely stand the test of time, and there wasn’t a shred of evidence the shoddy more expensive replacement had passed rigorous quality control checks.

However, the greatest concern was the small print terms and conditions of sale displayed on their website which was riddled with potentially unfair terms that ignored compliance with the 2015 Consumer Rights Act and unfair trading regulations.

Bizarrely, a disclaimer asserted the company did not warrant the accuracy of their trading terms which left too many unanswered questions for comfort.

We asked Moda to justify hiding behind a potentially unlawful seven-year warranty term claiming the sole right to offer a credit note for defective furniture to the exclusion of the Pallisers’ statutory right to compensation, a repair, or refund, where a replacement was no longer available.

We also asked for an explanation compelling the couple to adhere to sale terms they weren’t told about at the time of placing the order, specifically the right to charge any difference in price for a suitable replacement.

Other issues included terms setting aside their right to cancel an order for a full refund if delivery was delayed by more then 30 days, or where a replacement product was not up to scratch.

Any business can get things wrong, but what counts is how they put things right. Despite putting the Pallisers’ complaint and our concerns to the company they were not prepared to offer an explanation. In what was an extraordinary way for a business to behave there was no comment, apology, pretence of customer service, offer to put things right or act fairly.

Company spokesperson and head of customer service Jo Bell said: ‘Moda Furnishings have no comment on the timeline provided by your reader. I would encourage the Pallisers to contact the relevant government regulatory bodies if they wish to progress the matter in a formal capacity.’

Jean wasn’t at all surprised the company had refused to comment. ‘There was never any customer service at all, just accept the credit note or get nothing,’ she said.

Streetwise is taking up Moda’s suggestion to contact the regulators. Both Manchester trading standards and the Competition and Markets Authority will be sent copies of our file.