A laptop, the Sale of Goods Act and incompetence from Currys

thewaltman By thewaltman, 17th Dec 2009 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/neslw8ax/
Posted in Wikinut>Money>Shopping

My laptop charger stopped working 20 months after I'd bought it from Currys. I've oulined here the experience I received when went back the shop for a replacement.

A bit of background

I bought a Toshiba Equium laptop from Currys in Leeds for £449.99 on the 6th April 2008. Not the most expensive laptop they sold, but not the cheapest either, and plenty good enough for my needs.

My wife and I mainly use the laptop on evenings and weekends as we both work full time. The laptop worked without problem until the evening of the 15th December 2009, when I noticed the battery was not charging even though the charger was plugged in. On inspection of the charger, we noticed that it was emitting a high pitched buzzing sound. When tried in other plug sockets, the same noise was heard. We immediately unplugged the charger. The laptop was still operating without problem, and has been switched off ever since to save the 20 minutes of so of usage that is left.

I dug out the receipt, and my heart sank as I realised it had been 20 months since the purchase, and so was out of the initial year guarantee period.

The Sale of Goods Act

I decided to head online (with another netbook) to do some research. First, I hunted around for people whose chargers had displayed similar symptons. From what I could find, it did seem the charger was the problem and needed replacing.

Then I browsed some consumer sites. Many, many people have been in the same position as me; they'd bought an item, it had suffered problems after the initial guarantee had expired and they were trying to get a replacement or a refund.

The Sale of Goods Act is the legislation applicable in this circumtance. The key points of the Act are that a retailer or supplier must ensure that what they sell must conform to contract which means the goods must:

  1. Fit its description
  2. Be fit for its purpose
  3. Be of satisfactory quality

It is this third bullet point that I'll focus on. In the case of my laptop charger, the question is whether it was inherently faulty at the time of sale, and so suffered a problem before the end of its expected lifetime. If I had been using the charger for 5 years, I would have less cause for complaint. But in my mind, 20 months is an unreasonably short period of time to expect charger to last.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, if the product is 6 months or older the onus is on the purchaser to prove the goods did not conform to contract (e.g. was inherently faulty) and should have reasonably lasted until this point in time.

The Act also makes it quite clear that if the goods do not conform to contract the responsibility lies with the retailer/supplier, and not with the manufacturer.

Basically, this means that I may need to get an independent assessment made on the laptop charger and use this to prove to Currys that the fault was not of my making. However, I decided to take the item back to the Currys store and see whether they would replace or refund the charger without going through this hassle. Or at least give me a process to follow if I did get an assessment made.

My Currys in-store experience

I started at the sales counter (there was no seperate customer service or returns area). I explained my situation, and the girl behind the counter checked the date on my receipt and said that as the product was over a year old there was nothing they could do. Maybe I should speak to Toshiba she suggested?

I then stated that under the Sale of Goods act it was the responsibility of Currys not the manufacturer. At this point she called for a colleague.

I explained again. And again I was told that Currys were not liable. I stated that in my opinion 20 months was not a reasonable lifetime for a laptop charger and that under the Sales of Goods act Currys needed to help me out.

I was then told to ring their technical support team, so I asked to be put through on the store phone. Currys use the TechGuys, and I explained my problem for a third time. Again the guy on the phone denied it was Currys problem. I asked him if he agreed that the Sales of Goods Act was applicable to my purchase. He told me he couldn't comment on that, and that I should speak to Toshiba.

At this point I knew I wasn't going to get a simple refund or replacement, but I wanted to see if Currys would admit to having to offer me the chance to prove the product was defective and so comply their responsibility under the Sales of Goods Act.

I then asked to speak to the manager, and the deputy store manager was summoned. I described the background for a fourth time. He said that he didn't deal with these types of things, and said I should contact their customer service team.

The Currys phone experience

I again asked to use their store phone, and was taken into a back room where the deputy manager dialled the number and left me alone. When I got through to a customer service agent, I explained for a fifth time. The lady on the phone was friendly, which is more than can be said for the staff in the store, but still told me that as the product was past the 12 month guarantee there was nothing Currys could do.

So I again insisted that the Sales of Goods Act meant they needed to take responsibility. She put me on hold to speak to a colleague, and when back told me that I would need to prove that a manufacturering defect caused the problem. Hurrah! At last!

I then asked what would happen after I sent the report to Currys. What would the next step be and how long would it take. She told me she couldn't give me a timescale and that there wasn't really a standard process.

So I posed the question, if it turns out that the report proves the product was defective, would get a refund for the cost of the report and would I get a free replacement charger?

I was told there was no guarantee of this. So I then asked what was the point of paying for a report if I might have to pay for everything else as well? That could be a lose/lose for me.

Again she put me on hold to ask a colleague, and finally told me that yes they would refund the cost of the report and yes I would get a replacement. Hallelujah!

My conclusion

Currys clearly offered me a poor customer service experience. Their staff did not seem to know their legal obligation, which I think is acceptable for the more junior staff, but not at more senior levels and not on a customer complaint line.

If I had not done my research, and had not insisted at every stage of the process, I don't think I would have been offered the chance to prove my product was faulty. Remember, although I walked in hoping to get a replacement, all I was really expecting was Currys to acknowledge their liability and give me a process to follow.

At best, I think you could say Currys have systemic failings in both training and process. A more cynical person than myself may consider the revenue Currys generate from product service agreements, and wonder how this impacts on their attitude to the Sale of Goods Act.

Finally, I've only talked about Currys as it is they who sold me product - I'm pretty sure I'd have received the same treatment from many other large high streeet retailers.

Postscript

After I left Currys, I wondered where I could go for an independent assesment of my laptop charger. So I headed to PC World, but as soon as I arrived noticed the TechGuys sign. Turns out both the TechGuys and PC World are also owned by DSGi... who own Currys. Looks like I'll have to look futher afield for my report.

Sites you may find useful

These are some of the sites that I used for research, and you may also find helpful:

Tags

Broken, Charger, Consumer, Currys, Guarantee, Laptop, Law, Legal, Receipt, Right, Sale Of Good Act, Warranty

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author avatar thewaltman
Interested in many topics, master of none. Learning more everyday though...

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Comments

author avatar Bella b
5th Jan 2010 (#)

Hurrah!!! I am not the only one who has had a bad experience with regards to chargers for laptops. Both my kids netbook chargers went on the blink within 1 week of each other! Absolutely no help from PC World techguys only to tell me I was telling lies!!!!!!

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author avatar Bella b
5th Jan 2010 (#)

Who do these people think they are! They are selling universal chargers for £60.00!!!
They are £19.99 at Maplins. What's that all about PC World???

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author avatar Bob
5th Feb 2010 (#)

I hear no more. Did your knowledge of the law get you a new charger?

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author avatar Laura
3rd Jun 2010 (#)

I had the exact same problem with my toshiba equium laptop and charger! Had to buy a new charger as original stopped working past 12 months: £49.99. This one stopped working after a few weeks. Got a refund, had to buy a more expensive one: £59.99 and 7 months on, this one is on the blink too! argh!

Does anyone make a decent laptop charger?

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author avatar Adam Hornsby
16th Dec 2010 (#)

I dont understand this law. Why is it the retailer that is under fire if a product has a fault? The law should be the manufacturers responsibility, after all, they make the damn thing in the first place! The public dont help themselves either, if you go in with a snotty attitude you might as well not bother, no one is going to serve anyone with an attitude, I certainly wouldnt

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author avatar PhilT
9th Feb 2011 (#)

"Why is it the retailer that is under fire if a product has a fault? " - simple, because it is they who sold you the goods and therefore had a contract with you.

They can go claim on their supplier on the same basis, but that probably isn't the manufacturer either.

Hence the law is configured so that the aggrieved party resolves it with the other party to their transaction.

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author avatar JohnB
9th Mar 2011 (#)

I stopped using any of the Dixons Group 20 years ago when they failed to fix my Amiga's only floppy drive within the warranty period. Since then I have had wrong answers from ADD staff.

Now I have a mobile with a dead on arrival charger but since it is 8 months old I am told it is not under warranty!

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author avatar RobinA
19th Jun 2011 (#)

The problem is the listening capacity of some of the Dixon employees. I had the carefully explain a battery problem (faulty cells and not charging correctly as it was used on the 50 times max). The took the lap-top then called me a week later stipulating it is battery problem but it is fixed. I get to the store and nothing is fixed and they tell me to contact Samsung as it is over 6 months, a consumable etc. I did not take this and they need to go look at the usage logs and see it is clearly a defaulty product (10m old). 90% of retailers are incompetent and cannot listen of think for themselves. Dixons group especially.

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author avatar Michele
23rd Aug 2011 (#)

My problem is I bought a £700 laptop with P c World and within the first eyar it has been back to the shop twice for two weeks at a time for a fault. The last time I bought an extra insurance and was assured that they would refund me if it wasnt back within 7 days. Nine days later someone from the tech people saying that P C world shouldnt have sold me the extra insurance and they wont honour it. furthermore they wont replace the machine which has had two separate things wrong with it. I have also had disgraceful support from the shop, tech people and whoever teh machine went back too! I would certainly never buy from them again!

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