back to article BAD SANTA: Don't get ripped off this Christmas

The season of horror and expense will soon be upon us, and with it lots of gift guides telling you what you should be forking out for. But before we get stuck into that, how you should buy it is just as important. Youtube Video As the recent collapse of Phones4U showed, even something as simple as choosing the wrong way to …

No EU, less cover

So if we ever leave the EU we will have less consumer protection.

Thanks a lot, UKIP.

Your foreigner-phobia will fuck it up for the rest of us.

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Re: No EU, less cover

Just call it "business choking red tape" instead of consumer protection, and everyone will be fine

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No EU, less cover @OP

Where do you get that from? All I can see in the article is something about warranty cover being two years instead of what a store "may say", two very different things. You've obviously never lived outside the UK. UK consumer protection is far, far better than any other European country I have experience of. Admittedly that isn't all of them but a few of the major ones and I doubt the smaller ones would be as good. Usually outside the UK it's a case of once your money has been handed over you're on your own, irrespective of guarantees or credit card policies.

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Re: No EU, less cover

However, the hardest thing is to actually convince the retailer you are trying to get money off, or return an item to, that you actually know your consumer rights.

Then there is the small problem of the retailer actually knowing what his obligation to you is. Even with my Law degree I have spent many a time pointing out my rights to a blank expression.

For instance I returned a chocolate dessert to Tesco the day after I opened it, tasted it and found the cream had gone off. Returning to the shop I was asked for the receipt which I did not have and asked to prove I bought the product from Tesco. Incidentally it was branded as a Tesco product on the label.

Then I was told I could not return it without the receipt, rubbish! After few minutes my demand to see a manager coerced them into giving me a refund, 99p.

Incidentally I returned a JVC TV to Comet, had it 1 month and the repair man had called 3 times and put the wrong part into it. Still didn't work. True!

Comet policy was to repair and not refund until I took direct action and took the thing back to the Comet store and left it on the floor between the two automatic doors sat on it and told every customer who went in not to buy a TV from Comet.

The manager was very sympathetic when I told him my woes, to get rid of me he swapped the JVC for a new Sony.

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Re: No EU, less cover

Some companies do seem to very badly train their staff, and in particular the DSRs (now CCRs) seemed to cause a lot of confusion, with some vendors telling punters that their time to reject was from the day of order, or despatch, and that the time limits included the time returning something.

That's one area where this year's update makes it much much clearer what the time limits are, and it should be consequently simpler for people to use.

A receipt is not a requirement to prove you bought something, though it can help establish time and date. You get the impression, however, that sometimes - as in the Tesco case mentioned above - the staff would rather you just went away and left them alone.

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Re: No EU, less cover

"Then there is the small problem of the retailer actually knowing what his obligation to you is. Even with my Law degree I have spent many a time pointing out my rights to a blank expression."

And on the flip-side I have experienced plenty of customers screaming "I know my rights!" who clearly didn't!

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Anonymous Coward

Further shopping tips

1. Don't use paypal. Ever.

2. If you can use Amex, do so as their customer service is excellent.

3. If the product looks cheap and plasticky, it won't last, it will look tatty very quickly, and you won't like it long term.

4. Never buy either the bottom of the range or the very top of the range of anything. Always go for the bottom end of the top third of the range (or as near as you can get to this). Same applies for hotel rooms btw.

5. If the name sounds tacky, the product will be tacky too. It seems unavoidable.

6. Custom and bespoke high end gadgets tend go wrong far more often than middle of the road items, as the high end products never receive the sort of volume testing needed to iron out glitches.

7. Occasionally disgregard points 4 and 6 above when you deserve a treat.

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Re: Further shopping tips

While not bad, I'd have to say, re PayPal, while I've never met anyone who actually likes using them, you will at least have some greater degree of protection paying that way than, for example, if you were to put a cheque in the post or make a direct payment to someone's bank account, neither of which is has any real protection at all, short of stopping a cheque before it's been cashed.

Amex does indeed have ok customer service (though from my own experience, I wouldn't say excellent). However it's important to remember the distinction between charge and credit cards. A credit card offers you statutory protection in the UK under Section 75. A charge card does not, so while Amex does have a chargeback scheme, I would always suggest using a credit card because of the joint liability.

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Go

Re: Further shopping tips @Nigel

"if you were to put a cheque in the post"

I guess your example is valid in some dinky 3rd world country.

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Re: Further shopping tips @Nigel

If only! I have one client who pays me by cheque every month, and occasionally there are others who try the same thing.

There may well be those who are cautious of using online payment systems, especially after some of the stories of data breaches in recent months, and think that using something offline is less likely to get them ripped off, or have their card details stolen.

It may not be a huge number, but I do think it's worth pointing out to those people that, whatever the flaws in a service like PayPal, it will offer them a little more protection.

There are vendors on sites like eBay who ask for alternative methods of payment "to avoid expensive PayPal fees" and while you and I might automatically avoid them like the plague, not everyone does.

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Silver badge

Re: Further shopping tips

From good to less good:

Credit Card

Pay Pal on eBay

Pay Pal elsewhere

IBAN (but IBAN is free in Euro area)

Charge Card

Bad to less bad:

Cash (Never do it) or Cheque to bearer/cash

PO, / wire money such as Western Union (Never do it) or Bank Draft

Cheque

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Silver badge

Re: Further shopping tips

Amex does indeed have ok customer service (though from my own experience, I wouldn't say excellent). However it's important to remember the distinction between charge and credit cards. A credit card offers you statutory protection in the UK under Section 75. A charge card does not, so while Amex does have a chargeback scheme, I would always suggest using a credit card because of the joint liability.

Although bear in mind that Amex do offer credit cards, as well as charge cards,

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Re: Further shopping tips

Lots of places don't take Amex in Europe. I've been told that it's because compared to MC and Visa, they really screw the retailers on charges. I've heard 5% instead of the 2-3% from others. It may have changed, but I remember (to my amusement) that even Schipol railway station didn't take Amex, to the irritation of my work colleague who tried to buy a couple of tickets for us with his corporate card.

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Silver badge

Re: Further shopping tips

"stopping a cheque before it's been cashed."

IIRC correctly, a cheque can be "stopped" or cancelled for at least a year after it's date, whether it's been cashed or not. The issuing bank will claim the cash back from the depositing bank and eventually out of the account it was paid into. Something the bare in mind if/when you accept payment by cheque.

I'm pretty sure this action will cost you a fee of some sort from your bank too.

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Silver badge

Re: Further shopping tips

"Pay Pal on eBay"

You don't really have a choice on eBay of who to use, although you can use another service it requires people to be less lazy.

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Re: Further shopping tips @John Brown

The current cheque clearing process in the UK (other countries are available) is 2/4/6 - on the second working day after paying in, the money starts to earn interest, by the 4th it's available for you to use, and by the 6th, it cannot be returned without your consent, unless you have acted fraudulently.

There is a plan to speed this up even more, by allowing banks to present image of cheques to each other, instead of the real thing.

So, if you do want to stop a cheque, you need to be pretty quick or make sure you do have good evidence that you've been defrauded.

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Silver badge

Re: Further shopping tips

"If you can use Amex..."

And that's the big question. As mentioned does anyone still take that in the UK? We too had to dump it a long time ago as our Corporate expenses card as so many places refused to take it.

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Silver badge

No Tokens

Gift tokens / vouchers (even iTunes or Amazon) may be worthless by the time the recipient tries to redeem them.

OK we don't expect iTunes or Amazon to die this Jan - March

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Facepalm

People in the US do not understand a debit card (as opposed to a credit card) has almost zero consumer protection. And they prefer to give their card to a waitress as opposed to swiping it themselves on a secure tablet.

I could also say people in the US are completely clueless regarding money and just leave it at that.

Or maybe just stop at "completely clueless"

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+1 for John Lewis Customer Service

I got a price match for John Lewis online and a quick delivery (in fact they reduced the price in general by the time I ordered) of a new telly. It turned out the analogue input had dreadful motion blur (and it was in a second room where only analogue input is available). I emailed the customer services about it and after making some settings suggestions (which worked to a certain extent, but still some faces were not keeping up with turning heads!) and checking for firmware upgrade (none), were very happy to arrange a collection at my convenience for a full refund (this is after about two weeks of use). I don't think you can beat that for customer service. On paper the model (Samsung UE22H5000) should have been perfect, but it's good to know that if in practice it doesn't turn out to be JL will happily take it back. I would have gladly exchanged it for another model but alas they don't have anything else that quite fits the bill. There are other occasions I've had unquestioning excellent service from them with regard to electronics and clothes.

Now, can anyone recommend a good 22" or 24" 1080p television with 2 HDMI inputs, good analogue picture and a stand that doesn't reach the whole width of the 22" screen (the stand it'll sit on is about 18" wide)?

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Re: +1 for John Lewis Customer Service

Not having quite such a positive time here. I have a Freeview HD telly that's seemingly had trouble keeping up with the various "coding efficiencies" that have been added to the stat mux over time. It seems to the JL repair agent (and to me) that the manufacturer hasn't (and won't) update the firmware accordingly. Nonetheless, they're proposing to replace the main board (which appears to run at around £250 ex VAT for a new one [rather than a system pull] and which will require about an hour's labour to install) despite the fact they're pretty sure it won't make any difference. The ex VAT price of a better replacement TV is less than that... I think JL has to review the repair before it's committed - hopefully common sense will prevail.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice Summary of CCR changes

There's a nice summary of CCR changes here. Its primary aimed at the retailer but is equally valid for those purchasing from said retailers.

Full disclosure : Im related to one of the authors but don't work for the company

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Anonymous Coward

Once upon a time I ran an online shop and the things people would try and get away with under the distance selling regulations were astonishing. The one that really sticks in my mind was a guy who had bought an item, used it for a bit and then claimed it had broken down. At that point rather than return it he cut the plug off and replaced it then took it apart and badly put it back together. This item was IP rated so there was no way I could sell it again at that point. When I refused to give him a refund, well I can't repeat what he called me. That was the worst case but that sort of nonsense was surprisingly common and dealing with it seriously ate into profits. My understanding was that the intent of the distance selling regulations (and presumably the updated regulations) was to allow the consumer the chance to examine the goods as they would in a shop. In peoples minds that seems to have become: destroy the packaging, use it for a bit, lose the instructions (very common) then decide you don't want it and send it back. Small companies just can't afford to fight all the people that do this and the credit card companies are invariably on the side of the consumer as it's much easier to extract money from the merchant.

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Yes, indeed, that was the intent - and the wording I've seen about the new CSRs does make it a lot clearer, for example the document available from BIS.gov.uk states pretty clearly that

"they can reduce the amount of money refunded for goods returned which show evidence of use beyond the handling necessary to see whether the goods are as expected."

The more consumer friendly version from Which? makes it clear that

"A deduction can be made if the value of the goods has been reduced as a result of you handling the goods more than was necessary.

The extent to which a customer can handle the goods is the same as it would be if you were assessing them in a shop."

From AC's comment, and others I've heard, I suspect that some people have tended to view this provision of the DSRs in the past as more of a "no obligation home trial" than was originally intended, and the clarification in the new version will hopefully make things a bit clearer on both sides.

It must be very frustrating for businesses - especially small traders - when a customer not only maintains that they are always right, but that "they know their rights" when patently neither is actually the case.

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Anonymous Coward

incorrect information

IANAL but the EU does NOT mandate a minimum of 2 year warranty, it gives you that time to claim for a fault that was there at the time of purchase (in fact UK law gives you 6 years). After 6 months the burden of proof is on the customer

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Silver badge

Re: incorrect information

Not quite correct.

You have a waranty against defective parts and bad workmanship for two years.

You have 6 years to file a claim when a product has been sold to you in a faulty condition (nvidia chip failure fiasco).

Developing a fault after 8 months of use and selling an item with an inherent fault are two very different things.

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Re: incorrect information

Not entirely sure they ARE two different things: Example, if I buy a tv set, and after 8 months the electrolytic capacitors in the PSU dry out, that's a manufacturing defect, (using 80C instead of 105C capacitors, or changing the orientation of the PSU after design, changing cabinet ventilation after design could all cause this).

While technically the fault in the capacitors wasn't present at manufacture, the design fault was, so from a practical perspective it doesn't make much difference, or am I misunderstanding you?

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Very nice article...

Now since El Reg has branches in the US and Australia, can we have the same advice break-down specific to those countries please?

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