A Question from a PCW employee...

  Q-Bie 23:35 15 Jun 2003

..regarding the law, and where we stand with regards to repairs. I've been reading up trying to figure out whats what so I can best help customers. I will use printers in this example, as its the one that crops up most often.

Customer buys a Printer. Has it for 5 months, and it goes wrong, lets say, the printer carriage isn't moving. Customer brings Printer back to store. We say, contact Printer manufacturer, they will come to your house and repair/replace it.

Some people say, OK, and phone them, and get their printer repaired. Others kick up a fuss and shout my ears off :) So, I'm just trying to work out exactly where who stands where with regards to this.

The first thing is I'm sure I read in one of the acts, that it is not unreasonable for the consumer to expect the Retailer to ask the Manufacturer for assistance in repairing/replacing the item. Fair enough, as we in store don't have the technical ability or the parts required to repair the item.

Another thing is that, the printer manufacturers won't (for some reason) accept the printers back off us if it's more than 28 days old. They just get bounced back to us, and we end up with store stocks of faulty printers we can't do anything with.

So, can someone just outline the laws for me with regards to this topic...?

Many Thanks!

  rickf 23:51 15 Jun 2003

The customer's contract is with the store in the first instance and not the manufacturer. In this case pCw has a contract with, say Epson, your supplier. By law the customer has every right to look to you to make good the fault/s of the merchandise within the limitations of the Sale of Goods Act and the Consumer Credit Act.If say the customer were to sue, it will be the store where he bought the goods and perhaps add the manufacturer as a 3rd party in his action.

  Sir Radfordin? 23:52 15 Jun 2003

This isn't legal advice but some general points:

If someone buys an item from a business it must be of a reasonable quality and fit for the purpose sold. The only contract exists is between the person who paid the money and the company (person) who took the money.

If a printer goes wrong in 5 months then it could be argued it wasn't fit for the purpose sold and so the consumer has the right to have that rectified by the supplier - the person the contract is with - the store they bought it from.

There is this difficult situation where someone like Epson would just replace a printer under a year old if you contacted them direct as they know how old their kit is, but they have no legal responsibility to do so.

What happens with printers that PCW can't send back to their supplier is up to them. They no doubt have a supply contract that will state what happens in cases like this.

The person who has the faulty product should only deal with the company they bought it from. What happens behind the scenes doesn't matter.

  Q-Bie 23:58 15 Jun 2003

Ok so, we do have the ability t contact the manufacturer directly, using the same helplines the customer has, so using Epson as another example, if the customer brings their Printer back to us, we can have it in-store and Epson will come out to us and repair/replace it at the store.

But, the thing that is probably the most confusing is the "fit for purpose", I see no real definition anywhere of what that means. For example, someone could use their printer every day for 6 months printing out 100's of photographs, and then the print heads go and no ink is printed on the page. Could they then return it back to the store and refuse the goods, and ask for a refund/replacement rather than a repair?

I also note that there are new consumer laws in effect, which surely will have to affect how we deal with things at a store level. I have no idea why the manufacturers won't accept them back from us after that set time limit, it's something I'll have to investigate.

Thanks for your speedy replies, BTW :)

  davidg_richmond 00:24 16 Jun 2003

Q-Bie - in my understanding, it is the retailer who is bound by law to rectify any 'breach of contract' (fault). It is reasonable for the retailer to request the manufacturer's help in fixing a product, or even to bring in an outside agency to repair it. But the law basically says that the responsibility for sorting it all out is with the retailer. So, faulty Epson printer - contact your place of purchase (i.e. store, helpline, whatever) and they should arrange repair.

Problem is, it doesn't work well that way compared to contacting the manufacturer directly. Phone Epson, arrange a repair/replacement date and it gets sorted quickly and directly. Go to the retailer, and they have to arrange to send it to the manufacturer, then once it is repaired, get it back again, then contact the customer. It would significantly increase the repair time.

Retailers should always offer to arrange a repair on behalf of the customer if they complain, so that they stick on the right side of the law. But this could mean simply phoning the manufacturer for them to arrange a collection date. But unless the customer is having trouble getting through to the manufacturer or it is costly, doing this is a silly affair as the store doesn't know what days the customer is available on.

Sir Radfordin, I believe you meant it wasn't 'of satisfactory quality':

'Fit for the purpose - As well as being fit for the purpose for which they are generally sold, goods should also be fit for any specific or particular purpose made known at the time of the agreement'. I.e. you shouldn't be sold a hammer when you need a screwdriver.

The latest regulations (Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002) specify that it is assumed that the product was not of satisfactory quality from the beginning if it breaks down within the first 6 months. A customer now has the legal right to demand a repair or replacement (not necessarily a refund unless it is within a reasonable time since purchase). Previously there was only a right to 'compensation' i.e. cost of a repair. The repair or replacement must not cause significant inconvenience to the customer, otherwise a refund can be sought.

  Q-Bie 00:30 16 Jun 2003

Many thanks for your answers people, I think my head scratching days are over :)

Anyone wants to add any further thoughts, feel free, but I'll set this thread as resolved.

  Forum Editor 01:28 16 Jun 2003

The Sale Of Goods Act is valid - the contract is between the seller and the purchaser, not the manufacturer and the purchaser.......


In many cases a seller, say of a printer, might take the view that it is in the customer's best interests to return the item direct to the manufacturer for repair. This is because the seller will do that anyway, and if the customer does it some time (for the customer) might be saved. It is perfectly reasonable under the terms of the act for a seller to take the view that a repair is likely to solve the problem, and that a replacement isn't necessary. In this situation it's permissible for the seller to tell the customer that this is what will happen. Provided the goods are repaired and returned - fully working - to the customer "within a reasonable time" (and what's reasonable isn't defined in the act) the law is satisfied, and so must the customer be. He/she (the customer) doesn't have discretion in this.

The problem that arises with this method is that the manufacturer doesn't know the customer from Adam, and it is reasonable to expect that the seller would make arrangements for the return - perhaps by providing the customer with a returns number, or at the very least the name of a person at the manufacturer who can be spoken to, and on whom the responsibility for the repair can rest.

I'm surprised that your company doesn't appear to provide you with comprehensive training in this area?

  Q-Bie 13:42 16 Jun 2003

We do get a fair amount of training about this, I just wanted a 2nd opinion, as many customers just come straight into the store demanding a refund or a new printer, saying "I know my rights!!"

I just wanted a 2nd opinion, thats all ;)

  Sir Radfordin™ 13:57 16 Jun 2003

Refer anyone like that to your manager, its what they are paid to do. You should only follow the guidelines you have been given by the company - even if they don't fit what the legal position is. You are paid to do a job, if you don't do it right you'll find yourself without a job. If you don't like the morals of the company you are working for then you need to look for a new job. You are not responsible for the legal dealings of PCW.

  spuds 19:29 16 Jun 2003

I find this post a little strange, and two points that I would like to mention, that would be a concern.

"we end up with store stocks of faulty--". Surely PCW have a manufacturers rectification and disposal agreement.It would be very strange if PCW had slipped up on this one, with their purchasing contracts.I know on occassions, that it is possible to buy items at a reduced price, from the PCW Bargain counter, goods like printers, which have drivers,manuals etc missing.

The question that you have raised, would make me suspect that the in-store management team, are not providing the correct training and support for the position that you hold.Don't think that I am having a dig at you personally, becauseI am not. I know how different PCW store operate.Some have caring managers, some do not.This usually speaks for itself via customer care.

  LIVING_ON_BORROWED_TIME 21:38 18 Jun 2003

As a Retail manager myself when a customer returns an item which they say is faulty or damaged I firstly find out what the problem is and check whether I can sort the problem.

If not I replace it. Simple, If it doesn't work for me I replace it (obviously within reason etc)
I then either contact the supplier and get them to credit my store or replace it or write it off (again within reason)

For me if the customer has bought an item in good faith and it doesn't work I replace it. And I get the supplier to sort out the rest. I am there to serve the customer, if I don't make them happy and hopefully come back and spend more then its all pointless.

Majority of suppliers are great but what I tell any unreasonable supplier is why should I bother to promote their products if they can't be bothered to help me.

Obviously some people take the piss but at the end of the day if it was me, the customer, thats how I'd like a store to treat me. Thats what I teach my staff.

Its a pity that suppliers don't emphasise that they can help the stores to sort out their problems.

Also if a customer brings something back that is well past the sale date then I try to help them. I'll contact the supplier for advice.

Always remember this "Treat people how you'd like to be treated"

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