Fred Bright has always been a bit of a happy snapper, so when he came into some extra cash and saw a Canon EOS 1000D digital camera for sale in a CeX used technology shop, he thought he could take his hobby up to the next level.
The disabled 59-year-old from Portsmouth clinched a sale or return deal with their North End store. If he couldn’t get on with it, he could return it within 48 hours for a refund.
But when he discovered the camera’s technology was a bit out of his league and took it back to the shop, he claims they went into denial and gave him the brush-off.
He said: ‘I’d wanted a decent camera for some time and when I saw the camera on sale in their window for £137 I rather liked the look of it. I went in and asked about it and a salesman described it as a nice camera.
‘I asked what if I had problems with it and he said bring it back within the first 48 hours and you’ll get your money back.
‘It didn’t say anything on the receipt about no refunds, so I bought it and took the camera home. It had some manuals with it that referred to discs that contained detailed user information.
‘I went to a photographic store who told me it should have come with a couple of CDs.
‘Without them, I wouldn’t be able to use the camera to its full potential.
‘I looked over the camera but just didn’t know how to use it, so in less than 24 hours I took it back and said it wasn’t going to be any good to me and as agreed I’d like my money back.
‘It was then I was told that they didn’t do refunds but if I wanted to sell it back to them it wouldn’t be the price I paid for it because they’d take a percentage out.
‘The salesman said he could give me a lifetime voucher instead, but I told him I didn’t want anything else from the shop so it wouldn’t be any good to me.
‘I asked him again for a refund but he was adamant that they didn’t do refunds and I was stuck with the camera unless I sold it back to them at a loss.’
A devastated Fred complained to Trading Standards. In the meantime, he decided to call in Streetwise to get our take on the situation.
He came over as a credible complainant who had a genuine grievance, so we agreed to look into the situation for him and try to sort the problem out.
The sale or return offer was clearly crucial to his decision to buy the camera in the first place.
We also understood his dilemma when he agreed to buy it. As someone new to sophisticated digital SLR cameras, and without any in depth knowledge of photography, the equipment would be useless to him if he couldn’t get on with it.
Our investigation revealed CeX Franchising Ltd is a trading name of ‘webuy.com’ a company specialising in online buying and selling used technology products at knockdown prices.
The business had been a bit of a runaway success, with an expanding portfolio of independently-managed franchised shops. Buyer reviews were genuinely positive, and impressive.
The firm’s ‘small print’ terms and conditions of sale, both for internet and local shopping, were accessible on their website.
They made it crystal clear CeX was into both buying and selling technology products.
The firm would refund the full purchase price if a product was defective, and if purchased online clearly adhered to the statutory 14-day no quibble full refund requirement of the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2014.
In all other circumstances, if shop customers changed their minds about something they’d bought within two days, they’d only be refunded by a voucher against a future purchase.
We couldn’t fault CeX’s published trading ethic, which provided outstanding product guarantees and was in accordance with all their legal obligations to trade fairly.
What was less impressive was the apparent reticence of individual shops to publicise their full contact details on the internet.
Because Streetwise couldn’t make direct contact with the Portsmouth franchise to discuss Fred’s grievance, we checked out the company’s central website, but that also drew a blank. We finally traced an email address for the firm’s top boss, David Butler.
We said Fred believed he’d been treated unfairly and the sale had been misrepresented. The camera didn’t come with the complete user information and had he known it at the time he wouldn’t have bought it.
However, Fred’s complaint wouldn’t have gained traction if written terms and conditions of sale were prominently on display in the shop, or supplied with his receipt and not just online. Not everyone was on the internet or capable of ploughing through the small print terms of trading.
It was also ironic that had Fred bought the camera from ‘webuy.com’ online, he could have taken advantage of the 14-day full refund cooling off period and there wouldn’t have been a problem.
We got back to Fred to explain that after a full investigation, his complaint all boiled down to his word against that of the shop’s management.
Although we were in no position to come to any conclusion, he could possibly have got hold of the wrong end of the stick because there was room for genuine misunderstanding about the precise nature of the 48-hour return refund promise.
We believed that in the spirit of good customer relations, an appropriate solution would be for Mr Butler to step in and offer Fred a full refund.
We agreed to follow it up for him.
At the time of going to print Streetwise hadn’t heard from Mr Butler, but will continue to chase him up for an amicable solution to get Fred’s grievance sorted.