/ Shopping, Technology

Should Zavvi customers return their ‘free’ PlayStations?

Zavvi sign

How would you feel if you received something for free and were asked to return it? Zavvi accidentally sent shoppers game consoles and then threatened legal action if the customers didn’t return them.

It was an unfortunate mistake when, last month, Zavvi sent some customers PlayStation Vitas instead of the video game they’d actually ordered. The trouble is – there’s a rather large price difference between the two, with the console priced at £169.99 and the game at £19.99. Customers in receipt of the goods probably thought Christmas had come early!

Zavvi has sent the customers who chose to see it as an early gift from Santa a letter threatening legal remedies if they don’t return the offending console.

Santa comes early for game fans

Some customers believed that legally, they did not have to comply – claiming that the Distance Selling Regulations say that if you are sent unsolicited presents, you can treat them as an unconditional gift and do with them as you choose. But is this true?

Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. If you have received goods by mistake, you are not legally entitled to keep them under the Distance Selling Regulations. According to our lawyers, in any legal action, the ruling is likely to be that the item should be returned because it was sent in error.

So, even if it seems like Zavvi has turned Scrooge, if you do have a PS Vita, you may need to send it back.

Honouring pricing mistakes

This is not the first time shoppers have benefited from technical errors. Back in March, some hopeful bargain hunters had to return items to Debenhams after an online price glitch online meant hundreds of items had a discount of 99%. Tesco and Next have also tripped up with accidentally advertising products at heavily discounted prices.

You’ve had mixed views on this issue in the past – Sandra Whitehouse was concerned that someone had to be held accountable:

‘I do not think they should have to honour a pricing mistake. Nobody should profit from someone else’s mistake. Someone somewhere is going to be in trouble for this surely, let’s be fair.’

But Tulip Bicycle disagreed:

‘I think they should honour a pricing mistake once they have taken your money, even if they realise before the goods have left their warehouse.’

So where do you stand – would you return an item that was sent in error? Does the value of the item affect your judgement call? And does a retailer’s response to situations like this affect how you view their customer service?

Comments
Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

How would you react if you had sent someone something in error? Exactly. You know a mistake has been made when you receive the wrong item and providing the vendor makes arrangements to collect the goods then it is only honest that you should return it. Good vendors will make a goodwill gesture.
I had a bathroom light delivered – broken on two deliveries, resupplied without question each time and survived the 3rd attempt. Then a fourth arrived by mistake, also intact. I contacted the seller who suggested I kept it – made a gift of it to a friend.

Member
Graham C says:
13 December 2013

Receiving something that you did not order it is quite simple Keeping it is Theft

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Member

Not sure many people will agree with me here. But this is what i feel……..

If it’s a large company I would keep it. But if the company was small I would send it back as they may need the money more.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I don’t see how the size of the company makes it any less dishonest. I had 2 cases of wine delivered by mistake from the Sunday Times Wine Club (I think). I told them I hadn’t ordered them. Much as I despise Rupert Murdoch’s empire I didn’t have the heart to defraud them.

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Member

Legally it’s a gift. There is no harm in keeping them. This is what the legal team said on the radio yesterday.

This is why I would keep the gift….BUT….if it was a small company i would feel bad as they might need that money to keep going so i would send the gift back.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

According to the intro above, legally it is not a gift. Morally it is not a gift. No-one meant to give it to you. So it is not yours. If you transferred money into the wrong account, would you be happy if it was kept?

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Member

The Radio yesterday made is clear. If a company sends you something you have not ordered it is a gift. You can hear this on the BBCNews website. I wont post the link as it will take time to show.

“If you transferred money into the wrong account, would you be happy if it was kept?”

This is nothing to-do with this blog post as money between two people is nothing to-do with a company / business….but, if someone put money into my account that was not for me i would give it straight back. I would NEVER keep money from a person if they made a mistake. Just like if someone (not a company) sent me a item in the post i would send them it back as they made a mistake.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

“Some customers believed that legally, they did not have to comply – claiming that the Distance Selling Regulations say that if you are sent unsolicited presents, you can treat them as an unconditional gift and do with them as you choose. But is this true?

Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. If you have received goods by mistake, you are not legally entitled to keep them under the Distance Selling Regulations. According to our lawyers, in any legal action, the ruling is likely to be that the item should be returned because it was sent in error”

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Member

Which? sometimes make mistake, the BBC sometimes make mistakes. At the moment I am going off when I have heard from the legal team on the BBC Radio show.

If it turns out I am wrong I will have a re-think about what I would do tho 🙂

Profile photo of Florence Buswell
Member

Hi Lee & Malcolm R –

In the case of Zavvi unfortunately it is true that you would not be able to treat it as a free gift.

The Distance Selling Regulations do allow for gifting in the cases where a product has been sent out of the blue from a company you have not had prior relations with – but in this case it does look like an error, so it is unlikely that this would be allowed to apply. There is also no demand for payment, but a demand for the return of the product instead. I hope that helps! It’s certainly interesting to see different opinions on this one – I personally would return anything that I felt was done in error, but I would find the letter a little heavy-handed if I received one!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Thanks Florence, “The Distance Selling Regulations do allow for gifting in the cases where a product has been sent out of the blue from a company you have not had prior relations with” is interesting. Where this is clearly a mistake on the part of the company concerned, I wonder whether people would still regard it as wrong to keep it and contact the sender accordingly? (I would, I hope). I presume this only applies if the product is addressed to you by name?
What is the legal position if the item is addressed to a different name but at your address? I would contact the sender again, but could that be taken as a gift if you felt so minded?
Whatever the legal position, I think the moral one should be followed. How would you feel if you were the sender and had made a genuine error?

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Member

Florence,

Do you have a link to proof of this please? As the BBC Show I listened to said this was a gray area and there has been no proof of legal action to-date.

Does Which? have any proof of this please? as I would really love to read up on this tbh 🙂

Profile photo of terfar
Member

If you receive an item with someone else’s name but at your address, be careful. If it has come by Royal Mail it is legally the addressees mail and it is illegal for you to open it.

This makes it awkward if it isn’t clear who sent the package, but you should really return to sender with a note saying not know at this address.

Member
liveotherwise says:
13 December 2013

Safeway the supermarket used to have a slogan “if we get it bleeping wrong, you get it bleeping free.” They don’t exist any more. I wonder if the two are connected.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I would return it but ask the company to collect the item or pay the carriage.

I found a £5 note at one of the stupid self-service checkouts in Tesco the other day and handed it in, asking the assistant to put it in a charity box if not collected.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

Would be helpful if “our Lawyers” gave some advice on what steps you do or dont have to take to return the item.

I would expect the company to show some appreciation to those who returned the item without an argument.

Member

As a seller who has made an error like this, I think in most cases the right thing to do is return the item. I was shipping out Olympics pins and badges to over 60 customers and accidentally sent a rare and valuable pin to the wrong person. Fortunately they admitted they’d received it and said they were happy to keep it. Of course they would, when they’d paid £6 and received a £60 pin instead. Had they refused I would have called the police for theft.

As a customer, I’ve only kept wrongly sent stuff when the sender told me I should. I’ve done that as a seller do. Where it would cost me more money to pay for the return shipping of an item than the items value, I have simply let it go as a gift. I think that makes sense. If I were Zaavi, I would suggest the customers with the PS Vitas might like to purchase the items as a reduced rate. I mean, they have lost the postage on them all, and should have to pay for return postage. So why not discount them a bit and make an offer. I reckon some would take it.

Just because everyone wants something for free these days, doesn’t mean selfish mean-spirited people should get it. Sometimes you need to play fair and pay what something is worth.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

You say that everyone wants something for free these days. I don’t think that is true. Many of us want goods at fair prices and for retailers to take responsibility if there is a problem.

Member

I agree we want goods at fair prices. Many products are massively overinflated in terms of the profit margins being made on them and I think that’s wrong, regardless of our economic climate.

The trouble is people see every individual selling as a bad man these days. I mostly sell second hand clothes, books, magazines and DVD’s. I get people telling me I’m charging too much in postage on eBay… I have to send them a breakdown of the actual costs. Instead of being shocked or sympathetic that I earn very little and pay out massive amounts in postage, packaging, tax and site fees, they actually seem to care very little. It was this selfish behaviour I referred to when I said people want something for nothing. I’m sure this does not apply to everyone of course.

Likewise, I would like people to take responsibility for themselves. When someone buys a book from me, and asks to return it because they didn’t bother to read my description and didn’t want a US edition of something, or a hardback, then they should pay for the postage, not me. But sites like Amazon which forces us to offer customers this, set up this expectation among consumers who increasingly expect to be absolved of their responsibilities. I cannot afford £3 or more everytime someone can’t be bothered reading a listing I spent time thoroughly and honestly describing, or cos they simply changed their mind. That’s ok, so long as they pay for it. I was customers who are equally as fair.. I simply cannot believe these people arguing they shouldn’t have to return these expensive game consoles they were sent by mistake.

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Member

Rex,

I agree with most of your comment there. One of the websites I run sells shampoo & hair gel (didn’t plan on it, just ended up with the perfect domain) and I sell boxes of shampoo (6 in a box for £5.94) plus £3.99 shipping as that is what I pay Hermes.

Sometimes I make a mistake and send the wrong order to the wrong person. (It’s easy to make the odd mistake with 30-40 sales a day) It would cost me more money to get them back and to re-sell them. So instead I just tell the client to keep them and I send another correct order. In the hope they will remember this and come back to use us again.

I do also have clients who say the box was only half full (which is just a lie) and paypal used to keep refunding these people. So now I record myself on video packing the boxes so when I get a paypal case I have proof of what I sent.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Rex – In saying that ‘people see every individual selling as a bad man these days’ I think you are wrong again. 🙁 Many of use companies and other sellers again if we have had good experiences in the past.

Any seller should make it easy for someone who has received goods in error to return them, for example by offering to arrange collection or sending a Freepost number, just as many companies do for products that are faulty or damaged on arrival.

If you are selling products via eBay you could simply provide a breakdown of actual costs in the product listing rather than after the sale. I prefer carriage costs to be included in the price since it is one indication that a seller is being helpful and probably based in the UK rather than overseas.

Member

Wavechange – re eBay, you obviously haven’t sold on there before. I can’t provide a breakdown of costs until I know where the item is being shipped. I also have to wait till the auction closes to know how much I will pay out in fees. As of September 2013 eBay now steals 10% of the money you ask for postage, plus 10% of the sale price. Their other company Paypal, which they force you to offer as the preferred payment option, takes a further £.20p plus 3.4% of total money received.. unless it’s from overseas in which case the percentage rises as much as 5.4%. They don’t really make this clear, you have to dig that info out.

It’s a nightmare trying to work out in advance how much to charge. Instead I make customers a guarantee, if they are international, I usually over-charge them and promise a refund after the actual costs have been calculated, where the refund amounts to £0.50p or more. I think that’s pretty fair.

Obviously it is easy for people when postage is included in the overall price, but it does contribute to a misleading idea that the company can afford to send items for free. A year or two back eBay forced anyone selling a DVD to offer free shipping *in order to remain competitive with other sellers in the market*.. as if they are Zaavi or something. Then it backfired because sellers rebelled big time – they were flooded with complaints and many simply stopped selling until they reversed their decision.

Amazon is different again.. they choose how much postage will be, and that’s a set price. It often does not cover actual postage costs. Their answer is to set your price higher to include this. Except, Amazon take a percentage of the sales price.. so they are profiting further from your postage. They also charge very high basic sales fees. 17.5% with a minimum per item of £1 roughly. Most books I sell on there I get £2.80 for postage.. Amazon takes £2.80 in fees (that’s if it’s a sale of about £5-6 or under), and I’m left with zero postage most times. You get the same fee, even if the book is a massive hardback weighing 2kgs. There is no differentiation.

I long for the day a rival company comes to knock these guys off their perch. Issues with not paying UK tax, and factory slavery also are of concern, but their percentages and rules around carriage alone are enough to send people running.

Lee – That’s a great price for your products. Very cheap. Considering you have to deduct the stock costs from £5.94, plus packaging costs, plus any printing supplies, labels etc, then pay VAT after.. they are getting a real bargain.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Last year I bought some hanging basket chains on ebay, with postage shown separately (I’d rather see it that way). After they arrived the seller contacted me to say as the postage was less than they had estimated, my credit card was being refunded with the difference.
i bought a secondhand book on Abebooks. The seller contacted me to say that there was a little damage on the spine from when he had moved premises, so he was sending the book anyway but at no cost, and hoped I enjoyed it.
So there are plenty of “good men” out there.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Rex – You are right in guessing that I do not sell via eBay. Thanks for the explanation about postage costs.

Amazon marketplace is simply encouraging us to purchase from unfamiliar companies and from my experience earlier this year, Amazon will not take any action even if there is a safety issue.

Both Amazon and eBay do need some serious competition.

Profile photo of Figgerty
Member

Whatever about the legal position, my conscience would not allow me to keep it. I would also think about the poor packer or picker who may lose his/her job over a simple mistake. Send it back with prepaid labels supplied by the company.

Profile photo of Carole
Member

Figgerty – I completely agree with you.

I am appalled by some of the comments posted here.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Only once have I received unsolicited goods when the delivery of a pair of large hi-fi speakers was duplicated and I came home to find them at the side of the house [!]. In those days things like that were bulky and heavy but fragile so the supplier didn’t really want to arrange collection and return. They made me a very good offer which I accepted so I ended up with a quadraphonic sound system [remember them?].

I’m with Carole and Figgerty above on this one. I feel people would soon send it back if the item delivered was inferior to the one they had ordered and they would kick up a right stink about the supplier’s incompetence.

Profile photo of rich835
Member

This happened some weeks ago now. Really the PS Vita’s are now secondhand goods. Anyone that really wanted it, would have opened the packaging and played with it by now, so what do Zavvi expect to do with the units if they get them back, sell them on again as new? Doubtful.

Can they actually prove who they sent these units to? I would’ve thought it’s their word against the customer. Taking legal action against the customer? Doubtful, the legal fees would cost more than the unit’s worth!

I think Zavvi would be better off, offering the consoles to those that they sent them to, for a heavily discounted price. They might actually get some money back that way.

If someone had asked me on the spur of the moment about this, as to whether I would send it back or keep it, I would have instictively answered no, I’m keeping it, it’s their mistake, tough.

However, reading some of the comments on here, has made me think twice. I think now if something like that were to happen to me in the future, I’d seriously think it through.

Profile photo of terfar
Member

I am sure that the law is clear on this. As this was an error, Zavvi is entitled to make arrangements to collect the item at the recipients convenience.

Note that it is Zavvi’s responsibility to make the arrangements to YOUR convenience. They cannot just send a courier to pick it up at any time as you may not be home and they certainly cannot make you wait at home for it to be collected. Neither can they expect you to take it to a post office and post it.

So it is their mistake but they are entitled to have it returned. If they get funny about it, just offer to leave it on your door step for them to collect.