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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

I would like to see Currys PC World respond to Which?, issue a public apology and make available a claim form for customers to reclaim the additional cost they have had to pay for the cost of their laptop.

I’m not keen on promoting a compensation culture but as John says above, this has been going on for years and maybe having to compensate customers might act as a future deterrent.

I’m glad that there are still stores like Currys PC World as an alternative to buying online but prompt action is needed when companies step out of line.

Corporate apologies are pretty pointless. Like the stsndard “we take our responsibilities very seriously” trotted out as if that quells any concerns.

If Curry’s practice breaks consumer law then they should be prosecuted and penalised. If not, then publicity may be an alternative. A real deterrent that damages profitability or reputation might have some effect on CPCW and anyone else who seeks to profit by deception.

Which? should, I believe, be far more positive on this tactic if they really seek to benefit consumers. But then, so should Trading Standards if the practice is illegsl But is it? Which? suggests it is.

I’m not just looking for an apology but action to refund those who have been charged more than the advertised price.

Hopefully we will see a legal ruling that could provide a useful legal precedent. What the company seems to be doing is deliberately advertising a product that is not available at the advertised price, which is not the usual upselling that we have to put up with.

Isn’t one problem that you order a product online, go to collect and find that all they have “in stock” is the one with “extras”. If so, that is deception.

when buying online you have the additional protection of the Consumer Contracts Regulations. I had assumed that the problems related to laptops bought in store but maybe the same is happening with online purchases.

I think if you go into CPCW to buy a laptop on spec, so to speak, if all they offer is one with a back up then you can simply walk away; no one is forcing you to buy. My impression from posts over the years was that people had reserved online, or found there was stock listed, gone to collect and found it was not so. A comment in the intro says“‘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“.

OK, it’s online as well as in store. At some time in the discussions the technique was identified as ‘bait and switch’ and that comes under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

I expect that many would walk away, but consider the scenario that someone urgently needs a new computer because the old one is beyond repair. They may have travelled a distance to the store or they may have ordered online, only to find out that the only option is to pay more. It’s not surprising that some will pay the extra.

The whole point about this is that the company has shown no resolve to stop this switch tactic and it is persisting despite promises to the contrary. I conclude that it is being officially tolerated and condoned as a matter of corporate policy and staff in each store collectively feel under an obligation to pursue it for fear of the consequences of not doing so.

It has taken a long time for a legal warning to be issued and I hope that enforcement of that through the courts will not be held up while we quibble over the legal niceties and finer points of interpretation. From consumers’ point of view any ruling by a court would be useful since the present uncertainty is not conducive to fair trading. If Currys PC World are not acting in breach of the law then Which? can campaign for a change in the law and the general public can be given official warnings of the prevailing practice at their outlets.

I think Which? should also prompt manufacturers to ban the unsealing and opening of their packaging by the retailer without the purchaser’s specific consent.

It would be interesting to know whether ‘click-&-collect’ counts as distance selling.

Whether ‘click & collect’ counts as distance selling will depend on whether a contract was made. They would not apply if a product in stock was reserved for a few days. On the other hand if you paid for the goods and opted to pick them up from a store rather than have them delivered, a contract has been made. I do not know which applies in the case of the Currys PC World laptops.

You are absolutely right that this is not fair trading.

Reserve and Collect at CPCW does not involve payment until you go to the store. They simply reserve the item for you at the chosen store; they show which local store(s) have it in stock and say they’ll contact you if there is a problem.

Probably no contract is formed, just misleading practice if they show stock that you reserve but when you collect they say does not exist without prior warning?. Perhaps Which? could tell us on what legal grounds they can pursue CPCW?

michael says:
25 March 2019

I purchased a laptop 7 june 2017,in June 5 2018 from PC world the device wouldnt connect to internet .It was inside the guarantee ,so expected it to be fixed ! It was returned to me 10 days later NOT fixed and of course was now out of guarantee .It was not fixed by PC world all they wanted was more money from me to send away for repair ,which i refused nor would they consider a refund or a new device .I had to find a computor expert who fixed the device for me .Since then i was reading national newspaper and saw a small article in march 2019 about PC world mis selling and charging people for add ons that were not necessary or not asked for .I looked at my receipt and only then realised they had charged me £55 for setup and they had charged me twice for anti virus Mcafee, plus i was also sold another antivirus in July 2018 ,so three in all I have contacted the email address given in the newspaper article and they are dealing with my complaint Atm.I hope to be fully refunded for the miss selling which amounts to about £170

Michael, you do not say what the computer expert found wrong with your laptop, and fixed. It would be helpful to know.

I presume that if the fault was covered by the guarantee and the product was “repaired” but the repair failed then it should have been dealt with under guarantee by CPCW.

The protection provided after 6 months by the Consumer Rights Act requires you to show their was a fault from new. However, such a “fault” would include lack of durability if it was a physical fault and you should be entitled to some proportionate redress.

I guess one of the problems with computers is that added software can cause problems that are not of the PC’s own making.