Groupon's disintegrating garden furniture leaves Karen angry - until Streetwise stands up for her consumer rights

When Drayton reader Karen Palmer found herself at the wrong end of a raw deal from internet trader Groupon, she was determined not to give up.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 4:00 pm

Not only did she insist on her consumer rights being respected but also the right to basic fairness and to be listened to and not fobbed off in the expectation she’d just give up and go away.

The determined NHS secretary’s spat with the international online trader came like a bolt out of the blue.

She paid them £450 for an upmarket rattan garden furniture suite that started to show signs of disintegration within the one-year guarantee period.

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Karen Palmer Picture: Ian Hargreaves (171119-2)

But when her quality and fitness for purpose complaint was rejected out of hand it wasn’t long before she was embroiled in a furious six-month battle to get the problem sorted.

Karen explained she decided to invest in the furniture in the spring of 2018 so she could relax and enjoy sharing the summer with her three adult sons in the garden.

She’d placed orders with Groupon previously and had been completely satisfied, so she looked to see what al fresco dining sets they had on offer because it had to be a sufficiently decent size to accommodate her large family.

‘I bought it April/May time in 2018, she said, ‘and used it throughout the summer with no problems, packed it away for the winter, and brought it back out again this May because my youngest son had a 18th birthday party at home.

Karen Palmer from Drayton with her garden rattan furniture which has disintegrated. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (171119-3)

‘One of the arms of the chair was showing signs of a split which I just put down to someone at the party bumping a bottle top or something like that on the chair, but then literally within a couple of weeks the whole arm of the chair went, and the table under the glass top started to go the same way.

‘It was literally the whole set, the stools, everything started to disintegrate so we haven’t been able to use it this year.’

A bitterly disappointed Karen got onto Groupon in May to insist on her statutory rights. Either replace the furniture or refund her.

But she soon found herself at loggerheads with the firm who she says gave her the brush off by falsely claiming her right in law to redress ended once the initial one-year warranty had expired. All they were prepared to do was offer her measly £80 in compensation.

An assertive Karen made it clear she expected to be treated fairly in accordance with the law and wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She didn’t expect to pay almost £500 to be saddled with furniture that fell to bits in a little under a year.

Her right to replacement furniture wasn’t remotely extinguished when the one-year warranty expired, and remained in place for up to six years.

But the battle became even more heated when every time she tried to chase up the firm to replace it no one was listening to her. As a last resort she decided to go right to the top, and alert Groupon’s CEO to the situation.

‘He wasn’t remotely interested,‘ she added, ‘and didn’t even get back to me. A senior customer adviser answered on his behalf, but It was just the same story - out of warranty. They just didn’t want to know. It was extremely frustrating.

‘It was the principle of the thing. They claim to listen to their customers but in my experience it wasn’t like that at all.’

Karen decided it was high time to check out her stand with Streetwise and we confirmed it was spot on. We understood her fury at their obstinate refusal to back down.

She hadn’t bought cheapjack furniture, and had a transparent legal right to claim for breach of contract.

We were far from impressed that a firm of Groupon’s standing was unaware of their legal obligations to customers for faulty products, and senior management had been complicit in refusing to give her a square deal.

Equally disturbing, consumer protection fair trading regulations introduced in 2008 prohibits misleading commercial practices aimed at trashing a consumer’s statutory rights.

We first checked with Trustpilot whether Karen’s customer service complaint was just an unfortunate one-off, but the staggering number of abysmal reviews was significant, and reflected her experience.

When we asked Groupon to investigate they quickly swung into action.

A spokesperson remained silent to our criticism about misleading customers with dodgy excuses about their statutory rights, but promptly thanked us for getting in touch.

She said: ‘Customer satisfaction is incredibly important to us and we are sorry for the disappointment. We are working with the merchant in question to contact Mrs Palmer and replace the product.’

A triumphant Karen was finally relieved the battle with the stonewalling Groupon customer service team was finally over. Her dogged refusal to be bullied out of compliance with her statutory rights had finally paid off.

She said: ‘They could have said right from the start they’d replace the furniture instead of keeping me waiting six months down the line.

‘I’ve never had previous cause to complain about Groupon but it’s not until you have to deal with their complaints team you realise how shocking the service is. I wouldn’t order anything from them again just out of principle.

‘Had I not got in touch with Streetwise I don’t believe we’d have got anywhere - just gone backwards and forwards and getting nowhere. What they’re banking on is that people will just give up and that’s that. They picked on the wrong one this time around.

‘I can’t thank you enough. Your help and support was greatly appreciated.’