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Legal advice: exercise bike dispute resolved

After assembling an exercise bike, a member soon discovered it was faulty. Here’s how we helped him get a full refund from the company.

Shortly after receiving a new exercise bike, Peter set about assembling it. Once it was ready, he tested it out, only to discover that the resistance knob was faulty and provided no resistance whatsoever.

Peter contacted the retailer’s customer service team and was told it would deal with his concerns as soon as possible. After waiting a few days with no response, Peter contacted Which? Legal for advice on his legal rights.

Goods should be free from fault or defect

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods should be of satisfactory quality and free from fault or defect. Since there was clearly an issue with a central function of the exercise bike, the item was not of satisfactory quality.

It had been less than 30 days since delivery, so Peter was entitled to reject the item and obtain a full refund.

We recommended Peter set out this position of rejection to the retailer. In response, it offered a more detailed instruction booklet and troubleshooting suggestions, which Peter attempted to no avail. It then asked Peter for video footage as evidence of his attempts to resolve the issue and the resistance function not working.

Our advice

We advised Peter to inform the company that he would be disassembling the product, placing it back in its packaging ready for collection and requesting a full refund.

A few days later, it confirmed collection of the exercise bike had been arranged and a full refund would be provided. The company told Which?:

“We are truly sorry to hear of (the customer’s) frustrating experience. Our aim is to deliver a high standard of customer care and regretfully on this occasion we have missed the mark and let (the customer) down. We take this feedback very seriously and have put measures in place to make sure this does not happen again”

Have you ever had difficulties getting a refund for faulty products? Did you raise the Consumer Rights Act with the retailer?

Have a legal question of your own?

Which? Legal offers affordable legal advice, over the phone and by email to help you tackle your problem or issue.  

The team of legal advisers will give you tailored information and advice on your rights and next steps, so you can handle your issue confidently.  

Which? Legal can help on a range of topics, from faulty goods and car purchase issues to landlord and tenancy issues, plus much more.

To find out how the team can help you, call Which? Legal on 0117 405 5695 or visit Which? Legal.

Comments

I recently had a dispute with a furniture company over a bookcase ordered on-line. It was advertised as “ready assembled” but arrived in flat-pack form. I asked the carrier to note my comment and report it to the supplier. I contacted the supplier by e-mail the next day and stated that the item was not “as described” and requested either a fully-assembled replacement, or the attendance of an operative to assemble it, or a refund of part of the price.

With no response in over a week I reiterated my claim, quoted the Consumer Rights Act 2015, and informed them that I now intended to assemble it myself so the only acceptable remedy would be a partial refund.

I eventually made contact by telephone and was told that as the bookcase was bought during a sale they were supplied in flat-pack form. I stated that there was no reference to that in the product information which I had copied when placing the order. I was asked to take a photograph of the bookcase in its packaging but I pointed out that the bookcase had now been assembled so a photograph would be meaningless.

It would appear that the carrier had not reported my complaint on delivery that the product should have been fully-assembled.

The company continued to refuse my claim so I sent a formal letter asserting my rights and the company’s obligations and advised them that if they did not accede to my claim I would commence legal proceedings and take other appropriate action.

Eventually the company realised that any further prevarication would cost more than a straight refund and might be commercially damaging so they offered me £30 which I accepted.

It seems to me that a photograph has become a common requirement by suppliers when dealing with a faulty product claim. In essence it is a sensible practice but so far as I am aware a seller cannot insist on it. It would be useful to have a legal opinion on that aspect.

John: the only thing I would add here: in general, do not expect or rely upon the carrier/driver to report anything back to the retailer/supplier. Often the driver has no direct relationship with the retailer.
In the days of paper delivery notes it was easier to leave comments on condition of the received item. But these days with tablets/PDA the driver might have no options except “delivered” , “attempted delivery, retry next business day” and “refused”

Thank you, Peacheater. I agree – I didn’t have any great expectations that the delivery company would note and forward my comments which is why I immediately contacted the supplier. It was patently obvious on arrival that the bookcase was in flat-pack form but the driver had even argued with me that “they all came like that nowadays” [which I knew from recent previous experience was not true].

It would be appreciated if Which?’s lawyer, who launched this Conversation, would give an opinion, as requested, on whether companies can insist on photographic evidence of faulty or mis-described goods in dealing with a claim under the Consumer Rights Act where distance selling has been involved or in any other instance.

I’m not sure about the practicality of asking for photographic evidence since not everyone will have a camera or know how to send a photo. It annoys me that companies are so keen for us to use contact forms rather than email, denying us the opportunity to include photos as evidence of a problem.

In the introduction, Peter was asked to supply video footage, but this was unsuccessful. One of the problems is that video files can be too large to send as email attachments. There are solutions but not everyone is likely to know what to do.

Still, if you can provide photos or videos this can be very helpful when dealing with companies and other organisations. When reporting a pothole you may be invited to supply a photo.

Like John, I would have reported a problem to the courier as well as contacting the supplier.

When in dispute with a remote supplier it is quite reasonable for them to ask for information to support a claim to ensure it is being legitimately made when they cannot inspect the goods. It seems common sense to me and to supply this in whatever form the buyer is able. We need to be fair to all concerned. I expect many people can take a photo on their phone and send it, or use a camera.
I ordered a flat pack bookcase from JLP and it arrived with packaging damage and a dent in the wood side panel. I reported this to JLP with 2 photos showing the damaged packaging and the corresponding dent. That would both validate the claim and also give them the opportunity to take it up with the carrier.
They rang with a 50% discount if I was happy to keep the bookcase – which I was.

It is eminently sensible to provide photographic evidence in support of any claim but, as Wavechange has said, it is not always practical to do so and I hope that companies do not routinely assume they can insist on it.

I take Malcolm’s point about remote suppliers, but the Sale of Goods Act existed for a long time before nearly everyone had a simple means of taking and forwarding a picture and the CRA embodied the underlying principles of the SoGA in terms of seeking redress.

I did send photos of the smashed up remains of a delivery last summer where two large ceramic planters had been shipped without any protective packaging other than a cardboard box inside a larger one. The company involved presumably still supplies such goods but I have no further interest in using them. The cost of proper protection in crates and with crane or pallet delivery would probably exceed the value of the items.

I always take photos. If the retailer’s contact method does not have the functionality to attach photos, I add a comment that I have photos and if they can give me an email address I will forward the photos.
I have also noticed that some companies that only have a webform do send a confirmation email from their Customer Services department once I have submitted my initial report. In many cases this email invites me to reply and add further details. Most recently I have had this from Hozelock, Yahoo, Malwarebytes, and a few others I cannot remember immediately).
I always make certain I have photos and invite the company to tell me how to send them.

Some delivery companies take photos of the delivered item that then appears on their website. All drivers will have smart phones with cameras, so if damage is noticed on delivery, it would be worth asking the driver to take photographic evidence and post on your tracking info.

With Ocado, I don’t just ask for a refund, but send them photos of my complaint that generally results in a refund or voucher even if I don’t ask for one e.g. pointing out butcher’s counter steaks that have been badly cut. Lately they have been getting photos of the awful fruit and veg they have been sending out that hopefully lands on someone’s screen who will say ‘this is not good enough’.

Photos can show exactly what your complaint is and in some cases the retailer might even save you the hassle of returning the goods.

It’s encouraging that photos are being taken because this helps protect the company against fraudulent claims, for example non-delivery, which would push up prices for everyone. I was surprised when a driver took a photo of me holding a package at the front door. Give me time to comb my hair – please.

I have yet to use video evidence but I would use a service that handles large files, such as WeTransfer, or create a private YouTube video and send a link.

Photos are very useful when trying to source spare parts, particularly for obsolete products.

I must have gone over fifty years without a single complaint about any goods delivered either directly by the seller or by a carrier. It is only over the last two year that there have been occasional problems. I am just not in the habit of dealing with these situations!