An elderly Southsea couple have been locked in a nine-month battle with a mobility firm over the return of a £2,000 deposit for two chairs.
Ed and Sue Vasey cancelled their order just three days after a visit from a pushy salesman from Orchid Mobility, of Colchester, Essex, pressurised them into buying two recliners they didn’t want.
Ed, 84, said they were targeted by the company last February after he received a flyer inviting them to get in touch about a new range of mobility products.
He rang them for more information and a price list, but to his surprise the very next day a salesman turned up on their doorstep with a demonstration chair and wouldn’t leave until they’d given him an order.
‘I wished I’d never set eyes on them,’ Ed said. ‘But the salesman really had the gift of the gab, and turned on the charm. He gave us a glossy brochure and explained that the chairs were made to measure and priced accordingly.
‘He measured us up, and persisted in trying to convince us the chairs were a bespoke custom made lifelong investment in comfort and style. They were a snip at £1,950 each.
‘We said three or four times we’d like time to think about it as it amounted to a considerable investment we couldn’t really afford. It was a fair chunk out of our savings.
‘We were then taken off guard when he offered to negotiate a tempting price reduction deal with what he said was head office.
‘He showed us what he claimed were testimonials from numerous satisfied customers, and insisted we’d be missing out if we let the opportunity to buy them slip away.
‘The chairs tilted as well as reclined, which we found attractive, but after almost two hours high pressure sales patter he realised we weren’t going to drop our resistance to the sale.
‘In front of us he got onto his manager to say we were still interested and asked whether there was any chance of a price reduction.
‘He kept up the sales talk while we waited for a return call, and when it came through we were made a revised offer of £1,700 per chair dependent on placing an immediate order and the £2,000 deposit.
‘When we indicated it was still more than we could realistically afford, he phoned the head office again who came back with what they said was their final offer of £3,000 for both chairs.
‘A good two and a half hours later we were fed up to the back teeth, and just wanted to see the back of him.
‘We felt intimidated into giving him an order so when he gave us a categorical assurance we could cancel it within 14 days for a full refund, we handed over our bank card details.
‘We soon began to regret it. After leaving it for a few days we rang Orchid up and as instructed wrote them a letter cancelling the order. We were promised every week for months our money would be refunded, but now they don’t even return our calls.
‘Every time we rang to find out what was happening it was just one excuse after another, and nine months later we still haven’t been paid. We’ve not heard anything from the bank and we’re just sick and stressed out with the worry.’
Following the couple’s complaint Streetwise ran the rule over the company and checked out their current trading status with Companies House official records.
Although they’d cancelled the order well within the statutory 14 day cooling-off period, the repeated failure to repay their money smacked of sharp practice.
Fair trading regulations introduced in 2008 made it unlawful for traders to hold people to ransom in their own homes until they placed an order.
We discovered the Orchid Mobility registered company boss was one Marc Bridges.
He’d previously worked for the disgraced and dissolved Westminster Recliners, and Anchor Mobility, another furniture firm that went bust, both of which had been prosecuted by Suffolk Trading standards for aggressive trading practices and breaching fair trading law.
Orchid hadn’t filed accounts and details of ownership as required by law, which are ongoing offences.
We then checked out the firm’s business premises in Colchester, but there was no sign of the company. Nearby traders confirmed they’d left the business park some time ago but didn’t know where they’d gone.
We tried contacting the company but the phone lines were down, and email requests to call us remained unanswered.
Having drawn a blank, we got onto the Vasey’s bank Barclays because they’d used their Barclaycard to pay for the recliners.
Paying by credit card for goods costing more than £100 up to a maximum of £30,000 means the bank may become liable for any breach of contract or the supplier goes bust.
Ed told us that when they made initial enquires with the bank about a refund, the request was still under investigation because the company hadn’t been declared insolvent and a receiver hadn’t been appointed.
But when we got onto Barclays with the result of our enquiries, within two days the money was refunded to the Vasey’s card account in full.
‘We just can’t thank you enough for relieving us of all the stress and worry over these long months,’ a jubilant Ed told Streetwise.
‘If you hadn’t got involved and pushed for this it’s unlikely the matter would have been brought to a close. We wouldn’t have known which way to turn to get our money back.’