/ Technology

Have you been caught out by Currys PC World's Knowhow set-up service?

Plenty of us have been caught out by a sales tactic at some point. Most recently, a number of you have told us how you’ve fallen for one used by Currys PC World…

Update 15/03/2019

For four years you’ve told us about Currys PC World pressuring you into paying for a set-up fee that should be optional.

We took these stories to Currys PC World and questioned their practices and each time they promised to clean up their act.

But as recently as January, you’ve told us this is still happening. Donald Oswald told us:

And they’re not alone. Since January 2015, more than 110 people have told us after buying online or seeing an advertised price they were told in-store they only pre-setup laptops left, so they had to pay an extra fee of up to £40.

So we’ve now sent Currys PC World a legal warning outlining how the practice could breach UK and EU consumer law.

We’re also considering pursuing all available options to make sure this unscrupulous behaviour is brought to an end. 

Our Consumer Rights Editor, Eleanor Snow said:

“It is very concerning that Currys PC World has allowed this unscrupulous practice to carry on for four years – despite repeated warnings and overwhelming evidence that it may be in breach of consumer law. Previous efforts from the company to resolve the issue have been woefully insufficient, so we now want to see it tackle the issue head on so no more customers are left out of pocket unnecessarily.”

And this is thanks to all of you who’ve shared your stories and helped those who got caught-out.

But this isn’t over yet. You’re our eyes and ears – if this keeps happening, we want to know. So tell us if you’ve experienced this practice, and in which store and what happened.

Original convo 16/03/2018

You’ve done your research, meticulously picked what you plan to buy, yet somehow a crafty yet appealing offer manages to get the better of you. The result? You end up buying something that you probably don’t need.

Whether it’s upselling of one product to a premium option, or a misleading offer, such as two items for £10, when you could buy both cheaper individually, many of us have fallen foul of a sales tactic at some point.

I definitely have. I’d popped into a shop to buy a new facewash, when a moisturiser caught my eye. Ten minutes later, I found myself being talked into buying a complete gift-box set of items, many of which I simply didn’t need. As a former weekend shop assistant, I thought I was wise to such sales tactics.

But it’s easy to get caught out, especially when the tactics are more sophisticated…

Currys PC World Knowhow service

Some of you here on Which? Conversation will be well acquainted with the ongoing saga of Currys PC World customers being ‘pressured’ into paying an additional £40 for their laptops to be set up, ready for use, with a USB recovery stick included. In some cases, customers were told that there were only pre-set-up models available in store, yet were still charged for the set-up.

This pre-set-up service from the retailer’s Knowhow tech support team is optional and advertised as so. Yet this doesn’t always seem to be communicated.

One commenter told us:

‘We have click and collected a laptop at Currys today, only to be told when we got to the store that it was pre-set-up only, available at a fee of £40. When we questioned it, Currys dropped the fee to £20. When we again complained that nowhere was this mentioned before the click and collect, and we didn’t need the laptop set up, Currys said it could take the stick [USB] out of the box and just charge us the normal price, leaving us with what I would consider a product that wasn’t pristine. We told Currys to forget it and have gone to John Lewis instead.’

Another commenter, Jaydeep Sarma, said:

‘Offered USB recovery stick for £40. Also a software recovery package for £8.49 pcm, which is on my direct debit and will be cancelled immediately. Nice salesperson but clearly working to local commission targets. Only went there as need a new PC and no time to wait for online delivery.’

History repeats

Over the past three months, nine separate Currys PC World customers have complained to Which? 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.

What’s most frustrating is that these stories are nothing new.

We first raised the issue in 2015, after complaints were spotted on Reddit. At that point, we confirmed with Currys PC World that customers shouldn’t have to pay for the set-up as it is optional.

Last year, we once again spoke to Currys PC World, after more people told us here on Which? Conversation that the practice was still happening. Again, Currys PC World confirmed that the set-up service is an optional extra that customers shouldn’t have to pay for.

Complaining for change

Some of you, such as John and his wife, have been exercising your consumer rights and refusing to pay for the service:

‘My wife just back from Edinburgh Fort Kinnaird CPW today, which asked for £40. She flatly refused. The store handed over [the laptop] with USB for original price. 👍’

But too many are still falling foul of the sales tactic, so we’ve raised this yet again with Currys PC World.

This time, it has agreed to arrange refunds for those who’ve found themselves having to pay extra for a service they didn’t ask for.

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

Plus, it’s told us that it will be rebriefing its stores to remind them that where only pre-set-up models are available, customers should not be charged for the service when they buy their laptop.

Have you fallen for a special offer that wasn’t so special after all? What did you do?

Comments

28/11/2019
PCWorld at Battery Park, Selly Oak, Birmingham. Click and Collect on a HP laptop and was told that the “Set Up” was already done. I asked for a non-opened laptop but was told they had none for the one we wanted. The salesman snapped at me, which he did later apologize for, I said no thanks and on the way out saw the manager. He said he would sell the laptop to us at no extra cost, but I am not happy because I don’t know what’s been done to the laptop. I have it but not sure whether to take it back or not (it is still unopened)

There should be no problem if you want to return the laptop. From their website:
“An unwanted product can be returned for a full refund within 21 days of delivery as long as it’s still in its original, unopened packaging. This returns policy for unopened goods is in addition to your statutory rights and applies to purchases made in store, online or over the phone.”

I still don’t know how this country lets them away with this Tom I cant legally say what its called in America and its practice is banned or can be taken to court .
Calling it “upselling ” is in my mind condoning the practice of an “anything goes” society where sharp practice is “approved ” , in olden days spivs sold stuff on street corners or chapped your door with a suitcase full of rubbish.
If you buy a product you expect to buy it in unopened condition that’s a legal position otherwise its not new , if somebody plays around with a product its not new .

You have 30 days from purchase to return the item for a full refund-
https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/feature/desktop-pc/consumer-rights-uk-2016-refund-law-uk-get-automatic-refund-within-30-days-3414709/#Returns%20period
I don’t care who says what if its opened if somebody used it its—SECOND hand — take it back to CPCW and demand a refund .

This is making a fool out of British citizens and wouldn’t be allowed in the States and is turning this country into a third world nation.
That this is still happening in November -2019 is beyond words.-
https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/what-is-the-bait-and-switch-and-when-is-it-illegal/

Hi Tom,

I really have no idea what PC World think they are doing, if they can “set up” a Windows 10 PC _before_ they know who the buyer is going to be.

For any brand new PC, I would expect that the manufacturer installs Windows 10 (or other OS).

Then, when that PC is switched on for the first time, the OS will allow its new owner to create user id’s and passwords and choose other preferences.

Unless they are employing very capable psychics, CPCW won’t be able to do any of that owner specific set up in advance.

I believe that CPCW also like to sell “recovery” USB sticks to new PC owners. Although that is a service that some might choose to pay a premium price for, Microsoft now make it very easy for anyone to make their own “recovery stick” (see:-https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/15088/windows-10-create-installation-media ).

Most new PC’s also come with built-in recovery media, so, usually, anyone can perform a “factory reset” without the need for separate recovery media.

So, all-in-all, I think paying for these extras at CPCW is a bit like paying for “mats & mudflaps” with a new car – i.e. it is paying for stuff that should really be included within the price.

Tom – to answer your specific questions:

1. What will PC World have done in the “pre set up” of your laptop?

My answers are (a) not very much and (b) nothing that you won’t be able to rework by immediately factory resetting your laptop. If your laptop comes with a built-in capability for that, then I’d argue that using it won’t void your warranty in any way. (But doing it will require reading or googling the instructions and CPCW really shouldn’t be putting you in the position of needing to do it.)

Kevin Parkes says:
3 December 2019

My partner bought a laptop from PC World Oldham last night. We were told there was an additional charge of £60(!!!) and the salesman implied that it was none optional and that if we’d ordered online we would also have to pay this. I’ve never heard of this and when we questioned it he offered to reduce the charge to £40. My partner was prepared to pay this although I was grumbling. We paid but on the way out decided it was a blatant scam and went back in to get the £40 refunded and take the laptop home there and then rather than wait another day for the “engineer” to create a backup disk. The manager told us he’d never known anybody refuse the backup disk. I said we just wanted a laptop, no extras, like we would have received if we’ve ordered one online for delivery. Lesson learned, never buy from PC World in store!

Kevin, thanks for sharing your experiences here.

All the sales staff are obviously working from a standard script here, as the reports we get are the same, irrespective of the store they come from.

Currys have always been infamous for this kind of point-of-sale up-selling. In olden days, they mostly focused on extended warranties.

Did they also try to sell you subscriptions for Microsoft Office 365 and for McAfee security software? I think those items are also on their sales targets.

CPCW have repeatedly reassured Which? that this practice had been stopped.

DerekP says:
3 December 2019

Indeed they have.

From a link in the introduction:

“Which? has now issued Currys PC World with a legal warning outlining how the practice could breach UK and EU consumer law. The warning states we will consider pursuing ‘all available options’ to ensure this unscrupulous behaviour is brought to an end. This could lead to enforcement action.”

@awade – Hi Amelia – It’s time that Which? takes legal action. It’s great that Which? identifies problems but unless they are resolved we could see more exploitation of consumers in future.

I did find out a year or more ago that it was “instructions from the Board down ” but when I posted it on Which giving all the inside details it was redacted so I am not going through it all again ,once bitten twice shy , it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out who complained .
If those with a longer memory can remember I posted carphone warehouse,s “misdeeds ” in the past that too was redacted –guess who owns (parent ) of CPCW ?

Go on do tell…

Well, it’s the 4th warning from Which? (apparently still not effective) and the possibility of a legal pursuit is mentioned but that seems to be 9 months ago. Meanwhile, Which? still promote this delinquent retailer – https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/12/best-currys-black-friday-and-cyber-monday-deals-the-best-offers-on-laptops-tvs-and-washing-machines/. Does that make sense?

Sir Charles Dunstone –do your own checking Derek and see who he supports and is supported by etc , even mentioning his name might get this redacted.

Thanks Duncan. I’m sure he doesn’t own Which? or it’s subscribers.

Kevin Parkes says:
3 December 2019

Hi Derek, yes we were also offered Office 365 and McAfee subscriptions but they were not as pushy about these, obviously they make more money from the recovery disks. They also offered the aftercare service. The thing that annoyed me most was the way in which they make you feel reckless and that you are making a big mistake and risk damaging the computer beyond repair if, for example, a driver gets corrupted. It really is an unpleasant experience, probably worse than dealing with car salesmen. To pick out a laptop that is in stock and then be told you can’t just take it away because an engineer first needs to complete a 3-6 hour process is just surreal. Thanks for listening!

DerekP says:
3 December 2019

Kevin, thanks for the reply. Pushing aftercare with a “hard sell” hurt-and-rescue pitch is exactly what Currys did in olden days, when they sold extended warranties.

These days, I find that Windows 10 is very easy to install and repair.

Hence, I think the most important thing home users should worry about is regularly backing up their precious data, i.e. either to local USB storage or to the cloud, or both.

Kevin says:
3 December 2019

Currys/Dixons/PCworld used to make at least 90% of their profits from extended warranties, as other people have said, it seems to be their strategy now to ‘up-sell’ poor value IT services to pad out their profits.

My mum made the mistake of buying one of their warranties on a TV years ago. The sickening thing was that, having ripped her off by the overpriced warranty, they then made her jump thro hoops to actually fulfil their obligation when the TV broke; pay up front for the repair; repair company kept it for over a month; had to reclaim cost from ‘insurer’. When I found out (noticed no telly on a visit) I contacted the ‘repairer’, it took a lot of threats, persistence, and strong words to get them to fix it and eventually get it returned.

Turns out the repair company (Mastercare) and the ‘insurer’ were both subsidiaries of CPCW, and they were playing a corporate shell game.

The business model of this organisation seems to rely on, at best, short-changing their customers. Personally I’d pay a few quid more just to avoid dealing with parasites like this; they exploit the vulnerable.

I’d like to see more proactive regulation too. I doubt their salespeople are sufficiently well trained to even understand their techno garble, and will blithely present alternative facts to make a sale. Trading standards should be investigating, and holding them to account if they are misrepresenting their products or services, bearing in mind the only thing they understand is their bottom line.

@abbysempleskipper – Hi Abby. I did try to get some input from Amelia, the author of this Convo: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/currys-pc-world-set-up-service-complaints/#comment-1581831

It looks as if Amelia has moved on, so I wonder if someone else might be prepared to pursue Currys PC World.

How about Trading Standards? If legal action is warranted then surely they are the ones to collate evidence and act on it? I presume some of the complaints made on Convos from disenchanted purchasers can be validated – at least, from those who register (surely one good reason to require commenters to register so they can be contacted directly about an issue they raise?).

Afternoon wavechange. Amelia did indeed leave Which? a while back. I’ll ask around to see what the latest is on this.

Thanks George. Hopefully it is isolated stores that are up-selling rather than national policy.

Teresa says:
3 December 2019

This has happened to us today! I ordered and my husband collected it. When he queried why it was £40 more they convinced him it was the right product and we had misunderstood the cost! I am going back later in the week armed with screen shots of this report and of the product description. I don’t have the time to do this and I’m furious as they will find out.

With you on that Teresa sounds like me !

Teresa, thanks for taking a stand. Please do let us know how you get on.

Teresa says:
5 December 2019

Returned today. Supervisor swooped as soon as we told the customer services staff what had happened and scuttled off with our receipt to find a manager. They refunded the £40 as a “gesture of goodwill” and said the sales staff would have explained it was optional. They don’t have the non set up in stock (however I checked and weirdly you can still reserve it online for immediate collection ). I explained that I know this is a long term common practice and deliberately done to exploit consumers but they wouldn’t be drawn on this!

Good on ya Teresa as they say in Australia the UK needs people like you who take action and get things done.

Well done Teresa. I hope you told them that their “gesture of goodwill” would be mentioned on Which? Conversation.