/ Shopping, Technology

Paying £35 for a laptop service you didn’t ask for?

Laptop on man's head

Have you bought a laptop from Currys or PC World and been asked to pay an extra £35 for a set-up service? Did you know about this ‘Knowhow’ service before buying? Read what Currys has to say about this.

A submission on Reddit by Iamnoss just after Christmas brought to light some curious goings on in some Currys stores.

You see, Currys offers a Knowhow service to set up your laptop, including a USB recovery stick. This is an optional service you have to pay for, costing from £35.

However, Iamnoss wasn’t given the impression that this service was optional:

‘Three to four weeks ago, myself and my housemate reserved a Lenovo Flex 14 laptop for £449 on the Currys website for collection in Hove. However, when we arrived at the store we were told that they were out of the ‘regular’ laptops for £449, and only had laptops that had been ‘set up’ – the definition of this being the inclusion of a USB recovery stick. We were then informed that this would cost an extra £35 on top of the RRP, making the price £484 instead of the £449 price we had reserved the laptop for.

‘After refusing to pay this price, the shop assistant made a counter offer of £25. We again refused this, and he offered it again to us for £10, rather than the original £35. At this point we decided to cut our losses after driving especially to the store to pick up the reservation, and paid £459 rather than the £449 the laptop was reserved at.’

Iamnoss’ father had the same experience at Currys in Derby a few weeks later, but this time refused to buy the laptop.

Paying £35 for a laptop set-up service

The Reddit thread unearthered a number of similar stories from Currys and PC World customers, like this one from Mannginger:

‘They tried this with me before Christmas as well. I simply told them that I wasn’t going to pay for it and if they wanted the sale they’d remove the £35. I got a puppy-dog look and “oh but they’ve done the work” etc but he was removing the cost as he said it.’

VoxSecundus was also asked to pay extra:

‘This happened to me when I went to help my grandmother buy a PC from PC World/Currys. They tried to charge us £30 for a system repair disc, something you can create for free using an application that is a part of all Windows systems. Disgusting. ‘

What Currys and PC World have to say

We got in touch with Currys and PC World to try and get to the bottom of this. A spokesperson told us:

‘We offer a number of set-up services on laptops in store for those customers who don’t have the time, or don’t know how to set up a laptop correctly with recovery media.

‘This process can take two to three hours and in order to speed up service delivery for customers we pre-set up a number of machines in store. This service is entirely optional but is very popular with our customers.’

We have confirmed with Currys that if you weren’t aware of this set-up service before purchase, nor did you request it, that you should not have to pay any additional fees:

‘On those few occasions where stores only have pre-set-up stock left, a customer is offered the pre-set up unit at the normal price of the laptop, getting the additional benefits of the service for free,’ the spokesperson adds.

‘If any customers have queries around their particular laptop purchase, they can always speak to our Customer Service team on 0344 561 1234.’

In the meantime, we’d like to hear from you. Do the above stories sound familiar? Did you have to pay Currys or PC World a fee for a set-up service you didn’t request when you bought your laptop? Has anything similar happened in another store?

Update on 24 December 2015

We’ve again contacted Currys on your behalf to see what they had to say. Currys told us the following:

‘We have been very clear with stores and our teams here, following last years concerns, to ensure that whenever the store’s only or ‘last one’ PC’s should have the service set up completed as a goodwill gesture at no charge to the customer.

‘This is also highlighted in the Boxing Day Brief that has gone to stores. This says:

“In the event of a customer Resevce and Collecting where you only have a Pre-Setup machine left in-stock, you must ring to advise them, and you are to offer the service to them for free.

“A customer should NEVER be informed they must pay for a pre-setup product even if these are the only units you have left in stock.”

You can contact Currys’ customer services team on 0344 561 1234 if this wasn’t your experience. As ever, if this has happened to you, please do let us know.

Update on 2 March 2017

Due to continued comments and complaints about this, we reached out to Currys to ensure action was being taken. Jason Roberts, Head of Knowhow Customer Contact Centre, has responded on behalf of Currys and PC World:

‘We are genuinely disappointed to see and hear that incidents have occurred whereby customers have been charged the set up costs in instances when only pre set-up models of laptops have been available to buy.

‘When Which? raised this issue at the same time last year we immediately took action and thoroughly re-iterated the absolute correct procedure to our retail store teams via a host of forums and directives by last March. That procedure is explicit in explaining that in the instances when only pre-set up models are available, the customer is absolutely NOT to be charged for the set-up fee and it fully details the till procedure whereby the USB stick is recorded through the till and written off at 0 value. We have provided the evidence of the actual procedure, accompanying notes and briefing packs (which included the actual article from Which? last year as a reference) that were sent to stores for inclusion in briefings early in 2016. We can also evidence that during the last peak period (Nov to Jan) we wrote off the largest number of USB’s we’ve ever done. So you’ll appreciate why we’re disappointed to hear that the vast majority of our sales colleagues are being let down by a few individuals.

‘We would invite those people who have shared their experience on this thread to come to us directly at WhichSupport@dixonscarphone.com and we will look to resolve their experiences on an individual basis.’

Update on 16 March 2018

Over the past three months, nine separate Currys PC World customers have complained to us here on Which? Conversation about incidents where they’ve had to fork out extra for a service they didn’t ask for.

Such stories suggest Currys PC World could be breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations concerning ‘bait advertising’. It is also required to advertise the full price of a product bought online under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

We have therefore called on Currys PC World to stamp out this practice. Alex Neill, our director of home and product services, said:

‘This issue has been going on for more than three years without resolution and we are disappointed people are continuing to report feeling pressurised into parting with their cash.

‘We want Currys to make cast-iron guarantees that it will put an end to this practice and that customers who’ve been caught out will be reimbursed.’

A Currys PC World spokeswoman said:

‘We are sorry to hear that some customers have been charged for a Knowhow Laptop Set-up service on their new machine when they did not request it.While setting up machines in advance enables customers who want the service to benefit from it straight away, it is not something everyone needs.

‘We are urgently re-briefing our stores now to remind them that, in the small number of cases where only pre-set up models are available, customers should not be charged for the service when they buy their laptop.’

The retailer has also asked for customers to email it directly at whichsupport@dixonscarphone.com to arrange a refund.

Colin Tyler says:
18 March 2019

To redress the balance a bit: I purchased in October last year an HP pacilion PC from my local Currys; no trying to “[upsell”] (horrible term):– when I connected an existing monitor it ( monitor) failed. I went back to Currys and was allowed to purchase at the “bundle” price the monitor which was part of the PC deal. No complaints there. PC is unfortunatley back with Currys being repaired suspect this is a software problem so will see when I get it back!

Did Currys give you any advice on how to install your old monitor before selling you the new one?

Colin, thanks for sharing that. When I last bought a new PC in Currys, they did not try any upselling with me either. Then again, that was in 2011.

I hope your PC comes back mended soon.

I had a similar experience recently. Went in to buy a new laptop but was told that it included the USB. Sales girl did say I would not be charged and could have a an extra. To be honest when I started up the laptop and saw all the software on the desktop they had installed and how slow it was, I carried out a full reset and wiped the system. Much better now and no bloatware on the computer.

I am the latest in a long line of people it would appear who have been caught out in this dubious practice. I have been analysing lap-tops for a while and had narrowed it down to 2 units. One a HP laptop and the other a Dell, both on offer at the same price with £100 off RRP. I looked at them in store but decided to think about it over night. The next morning I went to the store (Cribbs Causeway Bristol) having decided to buy the HP machine, only to discover to my horror that the HP had had it’s £100 off offer removed over night. I though I had better make up for my prevarication before I lost again so I decided to buy the Dell there and then. The salesman came back with the Dell laptop, but explained that there was only 1 left and that this was one that had been “set up and ready to go” and with a software recovery stick. This added £60 to the price. Still shaken by the loss of my first choice I did not quibble, although I was more than capable of setting up the laptop myself. I decided to investigat what exactly I had bought and came upon this site. I am now very angry that I have been duped.

Is Which? ever going to get to grips with this persistent upselling of the laptop set-up service by Currys PC World? It has clearly become ingrained in the company’s culture and no amount of top-management soft soap seems to be able to wash it out at shop floor level. Can Which? not do one of its sensational press releases on this scandal citing the number of people who have contacted Which? or posted on Which? Conversation about it?

From my occasional low key “undercover” observations at Eastern Avenue, I’m sure this upselling is part of CPW’s business model.

Unlike buying a necessity like a cooker or washing machine, buying a new PC or TV or other luxury is a highly emotional process, so I’m sure PCW’s offers and sales pitch have evolved to play on that. I expect that doubt, fear and uncertainty are all employed to manipulate customers into “playing safe” by opting for the recovery stick.

As we’ve seen before, now that W10 is easy to download and install, these recovery sticks are largely pointless.

Furthermore, for budget laptops that come with their solid state hard drives soldered to their motherboards, these recovery sticks are completely pointless. This is because their hard drives tend to include recovery media on a built in partition. So if Windows gets borked but the hard drive is still OK, recovery is possible without external media. Also, if the hard drive itself has failed, then the PC is effectively broken beyond economic repair and recovery media won’t help.

I agree about the sales technique being part of the company’s business model [despite denials and promises to eradicate it] but don’t have any particular objection to the offer to set up a laptop; it’s what I believe to be lies that I take exception to. In Victor’s words “the salesman . . . explained that there was only one left”. I just don’t believe that was true. This has even been the case when people have made a telephone order for a laptop [without pre-set-up] to their nearest CPCW store and gone to collect it.

If I were buying a new laptop I might wish to have it set up for me as an optional extra, but I wouldn’t go to CPCW for one.

This was the update from Currys in March 2018:

‘We are sorry to hear that some customers have been charged for a Knowhow Laptop Set-up service on their new machine when they did not request it.While setting up machines in advance enables customers who want the service to benefit from it straight away, it is not something everyone needs.

‘We are urgently re-briefing our stores now to remind them that, in the small number of cases where only pre-set up models are available, customers should not be charged for the service when they buy their laptop.’

This follows an update in March 2017:

“That procedure is explicit in explaining that in the instances when only pre-set up models are available, the customer is absolutely NOT to be charged for the set-up fee

and a statement in Dec 2015:

“‘We have been very clear with stores and our teams here, following last years concerns, to ensure that whenever the store’s only or ‘last one’ PC’s should have the service set up completed as a goodwill gesture at no charge to the customer.

Perhaps it is Currys who need the memory stick?

Rather like Whirlpool, this topic just rolls on. Consumers should be made as powerful as the organisations they have to deal with.

In the past, Which? has carried out undercover investigations using actors to investigate poor customer service from retailers. An undercover investigation with a real person (preferably a Which? subscriber) purchasing a laptop would provide evidence that could be used to take legal action against Currys. Which? has a legal team that could provide the necessary support.

I wonder if @anabelhoult could help make this happen.

This is what Which? said in March 2018:
Such stories suggest Currys PC World could be breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations concerning ‘bait advertising’.

All they have to do is contact the contributors to Convos who have reported their problem, assemble the evidence, and take it to (Trading Standards?). After 3 years of this practice being reported I’d have thought if action was to be taken, it would have been done.

I suggest that Victor Hunt goes back to the Cribbs Causeway store armed with this information and requests a refund of the £60 he paid unnecessarily.

I suggest that Which? spends a few minutes contacting the top management at CPCW and calls them in for a face-to-face meeting [with the possibility of a name-and-shame campaign in their minds as a potential upsell].

Just to update, armed with the information on this thread I rang CPCW Customer Service and told them of my problem, he promptly told me to take my receipt back to the store and I would get a refund. I said I did not want to travel all the way to Bristol where I purchased it as I lived in Weston. He said my local branch (which is very small) would give me a refund which they did promptly and with a great deal of apology. I also rang the number against the C/C branch only to find this was actually a central department which dealt with many issues.They took down all the details which they sent to the branch manager with an assurance he would contact me within 24 hours, which he duly did. His explanation was that many customers took up this option so he tended to prepare most of his laptops this way. I explained that the reason I was ringing him was that I had dealt with CPCW for many years and found there were good salesmen who were objective and helpful and there were those that only wanted to make sales and “up sell”. (Guess which a manager would favour). I said I wanted him to have a word with this particular salesman about this and other issues I was not happy with. He said he would.
Overall I think there is a great deal of hypocrisy in this company. I think they may say they tell managers not to use these practices whilst at the same time setting them targets to achieve just that. This will then be passed down to the salesmen. The Weston branch were genuinely put out saying strongly “we don’t miss sell here”, until they found out it was not their branch I was talking about. That is probably why the manager is in charge of a small branch and the Cribbs manager is in charge of one of the biggest branches in the country. Just a thought. I agree with malcolm r that this matter is well overdue to be taken to Trading Standards or some other relevant government department. John Ward I appreciate your comments and as you can see I had already taken all the steps you suggest. Finally I would like to apologise to all the hard working, honest and good salesmen and managers within Curry’s PC World who work with personal integrity. It must be hard.

Thanks, Victor, for the update. Well done – a great response.

Voctor, thanks for keeping is up to date. Glad you got a good outcome.

Perhaps, instead of a critical press release, Which? should now turn this around and issue a positive one showing how a correspondent, armed with information and guidance from Which? Conversation contributors, had secured a refund and corrective action had been taken in [one small part of] the company.

Well done Victor. I hope your small success may encourage others to do the same.

kahsdkj jkhaskjhfjk says:
23 August 2019

Thanks for that great info #

Wayne says:
7 September 2019

I bought a camera a printer a tablet a pc a laptop a lg TV and by speaker from there during last 12 months I told them point blank I’m not interested in covervas my items are given a 1 or w or 3 year manufacturer’s garantee.
However I agreed to it with my camera.
12wks in and the camera lens refused to go back into the body.so I took it in store they sent it off because I took a policy on camera I waited 10 days and was sent a new one sealed up in box.
Now I’ve been thinking about this shurely I should have had an instant replacement rather than be sent off.
They said it got replaced due to extended policy I took out but my wife said it was a good idea having 3yrs cover.ibgorgot the extra cost off policy now.i sort of agree but it was 10 to 12wks old and covered by manufactures garantee so technically the policy wasn’t needed at that point but they insisted on policy before they did anything with it.
Also a couple of years ago I wanted antivirus for pc the store person told me of an offer they had on norton.
If I bought Norton I got a free cloud backup for free.
Meaning I could save to something called the cloud and the software pulls your saved photos up from cloud.
The clouds free for a 12months.
I bought Norton and cloud but once home I found I payed some on top of buying single Norton product and this cloud backup wouldn’t allow me to do anything unless I payed for the service.
Isn’t that selling under false pretences.
I complained but was told nothing could be done as I’d used the Norton already.
Anyobeb LSE notice the price scams leading up and into Christmas everything’s cheaper during the year but at Xmas they creap prices up very very slowly so you pay more but at Xmas they discount them down to original prices so you think oh cool what a bargain ive had in such n such item to find it’s cheaper in Argos or Geoff hills.
I’ve learntnbybmy mistakes I don’t make mistakes anymore I’m on the ball now and wise to there scams.

When making a claim under a warranty or your statutory rights, the retailer is entitled to examine the goods to establish the cause of the problem and this often involves sending the product to the manufacturer or their agent for examination. A claim can be refused if there is evidence of abuse. It is possible that a camera lens has been dropped or subject to water damage. Ten days does not seem unreasonable in the circumstances. If you had paid for a warranty that allows instant replacement then that’s what you should be given.

It would be interesting to know more about the free offer of cloud storage with the Norton product. If it is advertised as free you should not have to pay to use it. Is this advertised online, Wayne? It would be useful if you are able to post a link.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Many internet service companies now offer about 5Gb of zero cost cloud storage.

In most cases, I think the costs are covered by those who sign up for greater storage capacities.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

… but do those same companies stop doing that if you take out a subscription?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I have not taken up offers of a year’s free cloud storage because at the end of the year you will have to pay an annual subscription or transfer your files elsewhere before they disappear.

I’m happy to use cloud storage for the convenience it offers. I have backups and do not store financial information or anything I consider sensitive. I use the free version of Dropbox to share documents with individuals and small groups. Currently I have 4.5GB storage and when I run out of space I just delete files that are no longer needed. In all the years I have used Dropbox it has not expired. I pay 79p per month for 50GB storage on iCloud. It means that I no longer have the hassle of working on one computer and realising that a file I need is on a different computer. I have no problem with companies offering a limited amount of storage capacity free and the opportunity to pay for more if needed.

I have today bought a laptop from PC world as mine has died just a sive started my masters. So I was really in need of one. I choose a HP Pavillon and was up sold a more expensive model, but only £30 more but was advised I can have many tabs open etc at once and it will last a bit longer than the cheaper model. I was offered the bundles and decided to only buy the antivirus software and was told it would be cheaper with the laptop. I declined the software recovery as I have a family friend who deals with this. When I was ‘handed over’ to another sales person she made out that his set up and recovery service was a necessity, but it would be cheaper than the usual £40 due to me buying the McAfee software.
It’s only as I’ve got home I’ve thought.. Wait a minute.. Have I just been bamboozled… Very unimpressed. I doubt I’ll buy a laptop from pc world again…

Hi Natalie – There is now a newer Conversation about Currys PC World upsetting laptops: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/currys-pc-world-set-up-service-complaints/

It would be helpful if there was a link to the newer Convo on this page.

I don’t know why a Convo on a particular topic does not just continue. Currys PCW have been upsetting laptop customers for years as well as upselling the add-ons; this Convo started in 2015.

Earlier last year Which? said “ So we’ve now sent Currys PC World a legal warning outlining how the practice could breach UK and EU consumer law.“. I wonder what effect that had – not much as other reports here suggest; I wonder how many customers who don’t read Which? Convo have suffered a similar fate and not published it?

What needs to be done to stop poor practice? Is it illegal? In which case Trading Standards should take it on. If not illegal it seems sharp practice that should be kept in front of consumers.

Baco says:
23 April 2020

I purchased a laptop from PCworld in 2015, and paid for the knowhow set up and was given a recovery USB stick and charged the extra fee, which at the time I was happy to pay. It also included an anti virus subscription and a 4g router device, which worked quite well but needed to paid monthly for airtime, so I eventually gave it up. However here is the rub, when a couple of years later, I tried to use the recovery USB drive, I found it was completely empty! Not just no media, no memory in the stick! A complete fake USB stick! They are real crooks!

Thanks for sharing that revelation. As ever, I think the best advice is for consumers to shop elsewhere.

John Clarke says:
30 December 2021

Curry’s lost another sale today because of this. The price advertised wasn’t what they asked me to pay. Went elsewhere and paid slightly more to get away from their sales tactics.