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Tech Consumer Advice

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Is it possible to return working hardware bought face to face in a shop?


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I wanted to know the answer to this question while a 21 day return to shop agreement is still in place. It concerns a computer which my mother bought for herself in a computer shop (P.C. World), and so I don't know if the item would be returned anyway, as my mother may not care much.

But I wanted to know if the rights are there to return an item the consumer is not satisfied with, but where there is no actual fault in the item and it is in new condition and the working order as described in the sale.

I hunted around reviews to name a new desktop computer for my mother as she said she wanted a good one. I knew that computers get slow very quickly nowadays, and I wanted to avoid this as much as possible. I found a good Chillblast computer, at around £600, and Mum was going to buy it.

Though when I was away from visiting her, Mum decided that she didn't want to wait the 7 to 14 days for delivery and went along to a computer shop to select one to bring home immediately. Fine, I thought, but I didn't hold out hopes that the machine would be much good for heavy Web use and streaming HD video within 2 years or so.

My mother bought a Lenovo machine, H520s, with an intel i3 2120 processor (3.3. ghz with no power acceleration) without a 3rd party graphics processor, it's an intel chipset. The i3 processor has very good reviews in itself, but is quite old now, a couple of generations pre-Sandy Bridge I think.

Out of the box, it seemed to work well. As always, the HD video screensaver is impressive and, as with previous computers leads one to believe video will be smooth and fast. (Which never lasted long.) And it was, Vimeo running HD easily and nicely.

But, within a week, with 5 or a few more Internet Explorer windows open, standard definition Youtube videos can buffer 10 seconds at a time and play, and then wait while the circle goes around in the middle, and buffer a bit more, and so on.

So I wonder how the machine will cope with 1080p video in 2 years time.

Just in case my mother would agree to returning the machine for a refund, is this possible.

I have read the receipt from P.C. World which states any item can be returned if working, just if you change your mind, within 21 days - as long as it is completely unopened and in the original, fully sealed packaging. Of course, it's not.

How can you try a machine and return it, if this condition is the only way to return goods which aren't actually faulty. I can't claim the machine is faulty, it would meet its description and is in working order. I only sugest that it isn't right to purchase for the purpose, and due to trying the machine, this has been discovered, and a different machine would be preferred. After all, it's a purchase for an item intended to last at least 3 years, perhaps 4 and a bit more.

This article says that insisting goods can be returned only if sealed and untried can be in breach of the buyer's right to inspect or assess a product. However, I think the article is only about distance purchases:


Does anyone know if there are any rights for a buyer who buys face to face in a shop? At the end of the day, there really isn't much difference between buying online and in a computer shop where a full computer is concerned. Because both are in a very similar position as neither will really give a good opportunity to try to see if a desktop PC is suitable for some persons' needs - that takes a good amount of time - perhaps a few days.

If you know about the rights of returning after trial or any rights of return from a shop, please answer.

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(Forum Editor:)

"Surely it's commonsense to make your own judgements about the suitability of an expensive item before buying it? You shouldn't expect the government, or anyone else for that matter, to have to tell people how to buy something in a shop."

I disagree entirely.

There are shops which clearly say "you can return for any reason or no reason, simply if you are not completely satisfied, with x days, and we will refund or exchange as you wish".

Nearly all shops say something like that and that they will accept items back.

I just think most people DO NOT KNOW that this means that they must keep the item in the box and NEVER **ING OPEN IT UP, in order to be eligible to return it.

How the hell are they going to know if they are satisfied or not, or will be, even after one solitary hour of trying the item. As soon as the tape comes off the box, the return agreement is relinquished.

So, what on earth is the point of such an agreement? TO FOOL CONSUMERS, CLEARLY.

How many people - come on, now, rack your brain, be honest - how many people are going to want to return a brand new item they think, hope and wish will be everything the shop and manufacturer claims (lower priced hardware rarely is), simply by buying it boxed, putting the box on the table, and sitting and looking it for 20 days and dreaming? Nearly none. The return agreement is nearly totally irrelevant, but for gifts for other people that the person gifting hasn't warned or consulted the recipient about. Or where the buyer buys for himself but can't really afford it, or bought on impulse and decides he just bought something to make him feel good and hasn't tried the item.

That return warranty is just nearly completely pointless. But I reckon actually that most people DO NOT REALISE that the return to store if you are not completely satisfied agreement EXCLUDES FOREVER the possibility of finding out if you can be even remotely satisfied. Because after the scissors hit the box tape, the 7 /14 /21 day warranty is all over and done with, finished, kaput, null and void.

To me this is the most senseless thing.

And websites and government info and Which guides etc. are full of info telling people about rights when buying online etc. which does include the right to return if not satisfied after checking the item out for a good amount of time.

People can easily believe that buying face to face in a shop, with what to me is a con - the return to store if not satisfied (if you never try it to find out) is the same as the distance selling regulations.

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"I bought some 2.1 PC speakers from Argos a few years ago. I tried them out for a week, decided they sounded a bit 'boomy', and took them back for a refund. They weren't faulty, I was just used to using stereo speakers. No quibbles or fuss, refund given."

I've had similar experiences with Argos. (This isn't electronica...) One time I'd bought a Carl Lewis home rowing machine which the description claimed had a high resistance level included, but which offered nearly no resistance when I put it up, at the highest setting. Like trying to cycle down a steep hill.

When I brought it back and explained, the woman in the Argos shop said that they gave the description from the manufacturer, and that they would accept it back but said to me that that decision was discretionary and that legally they were not bound to accept that item in the circumstances. As it was their opinion that the item was not faulty. That told me that they were familiar with the particular item, if they thought it wasn't faulty by my particular description, and their discretionary acceptance was really doing what they knew was right and the only appropriate thing.

However, you can't rely on Argos (or other shop) descriptions. I once bought a Kodak Easyshare digital camera from Argos, which I really liked and wanted to keep. However, I'd bought it over other items because the Argos catalogue described the camera as being "waterproof" - more than just splashproof, which was only included on digital cameras about £50 more expensive. I was looking for a camera to take pictures and good VGA video when kayaking, which would involved splashes. When I unboxed the camera, I checked all the literature and Kodak said nothing about being either splashproof or waterproof. I checked other sellers online and none made the claim in the Argos catalogue of a waterproof camera. I then phoned Kodak with the support number given, and the Kodak employee was kind of laughing, saying this was a complete misdescription. He said your included camera warranty would not even cover the camera if brining it out in sudden light drizzle rain - the camera model was not claimed to hold out any moisture whatsoever and instructions were never to use it near moisture.

Argos accepted all of this was true when I returned the camera (a very good camera, though), as was their legal responsibility.

I've had terrible times with Argos though, on other occasions and I don't go near them now. I had experiences of extreme personal vindictiveness from Argos.

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If the store has a 21 day returns policy , EU consumer law says they have to take it back , even with packaging opened . The law says it is not reasonable to expect a consumer to know if a product is what they wanted , without trying it .

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And Some Shops charge a restocking fee. They are not obligated to refund or replace goods that you bought wrongly. You cannot expect Shop's or there Employee's to be able to read peoples minds

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Forum Editor

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"I disagree entirely"

You have a perfect right to disagree as much as you like, but in the real world I'm afraid you must accept a reasonable degree of responsibility for your own actions - you can't expect the State to nanny you through every aspect of your life.

We have some of the best consumer protection legislation in the world in this country, and many suppliers go even further than they are legally bound to do. They do it because they have reputations they wish to protect, and they know that happy customers spread the word.

You said :

**"I think that consumers should be advised by advice bureaus, and the government, and so on that they ought to ... Ask themselves if they feel they are pretty sure about a piece of hardware in the shop or wonder if they really need to check it out in use at home. If they aren't completely sure and think they need to try - to state clearly to the shop (ask to speak to the manager if necessary) that they really need to find out if this is the item for them. And ask, therefore, if it would be possible to return for a refund with an agreed time if it turns out not to tick all the boxes which are needed for a machine to be used over the course of the next few years."**

Are you seriously suggesting that the government should spend public money to remind you that you should ask yourself if you are 'pretty sure' you should buy an item in a shop?

If you are I'm lost for words.

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"You have a perfect right to disagree as much as you like, but in the real world I'm afraid you must accept a reasonable degree of responsibility for your own actions "

Again, I use my perfect right to disagree to disagree with your later assertion itself.

On the one hand, what you say can NOT be wrong. Absolutely. You must accept a reasonable degreee of responsibility for your own actions. In the real world, and I hasten to add, possibly even any other, if there is any other. Even in the world of personal imagination, I suggest, there ought to be some reasonable responsibility that accompanies what is imagined or how it is held.

And so ought shops. But their money back satisfaction guarantees are really only applicable to the world of imagination, and have no relevance WHATSOEVER in the real world. Where SATISFACTION means something IS or ISN'T SATISFIED with something. Which means precisely that they MUST have an opportunity to KNOW if they are actually satisfied or not or somewhere in between. (As I stated before, excepting possibilities of returning an unwanted gift or an impulse buy that can't be afforded truly, the so-called "Satisfaction Gaurantee" has NO PRACTICAL VALUE WHATSOEVER. And, this is of course because it hasn't even the possibility of being linked to satisfaction or the lack of it.

So, tell me exactly what can a "21 day [or any period] satisfaction guarantee" MEAN? In the real world. Or in any world. When, particularly - most particularly indeed, the very guarantee itself totally excludes the possibility of being either satisfied or unsatisfied with the item you have bought?

Yes, you have NO IDEA whether the item is satisfactory or not during the time this guarantee operates. As, if you decide to check the satisfaction factor of your new item, the guarantee is instantly and totally void.

There are no half ways or partial ways in this. The box tape can't be partly cut, or pieces "snuck" out while retaining the gaurantee. A trial for a single minute means the tape is gone forever.

The thing may though be X-Rayed, and one might estimate potential satisfaction from X-Rays (whether or not that would damage electrical items). And that seems to me the only possible route that could give any fathom of even a guess at whether the 21 or whatever day satisfaction guarantee can be determined one way or the other.

I hope the editor may see the truth of this matter. And that those so-called "Satisfaction Guarantees" are, not just in effect, but, you know, in every way you can look at them, lies. Totally - this is misrepresentation in contract law, an illegal practice, that happens to have been sewn in to the fabric of modern day trading. The shop makes a statement which is likely to then induce a buyer to buy because, in some part, of that statement itself. But the statement is a piece of fraud in itself. This is not legal in UK law or EU law. But it's ignored.

Can't you see why, as I exercise my right to disagree with your strange attatchment to the lie of the "Satisfaction Gaurantees" and your wish to continue fooling consumers by it, that this REALLY is something the government and advice agencies not only should, but NEED to be pointing out? Not only that, agencies of the government really NEED to be quoshing the existence of it because it does not seem that it could possibly be legal. How could it be legal? How could it be, as suggested, an actual "satisfaction guarantee" except for cardboard box fetishists who aren't slightly interested in the hardware within?

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"And Some Shops charge a restocking fee. They are not obligated to refund or replace goods that you bought wrongly. You cannot expect Shop's or there Employee's to be able to read peoples minds"


I think the restocking fee is a good idea if they accept items back with an actual opportunity for the customer to find out if he or she is anyway satisfied with the product. I think it's not really unfair at all to ask people to pay a bit to try an item, and, as long as the fee is fair, this is probably a good halfway point between what a customer wants or needs and the needs of the shop.

And it's totally different galaxy to the Alice in Wonderland illegal world of P.C. World's "Satisfaction Gaurantee but not if you cut the box tape" lie.

What other shops use this lie to sell things?

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Forum Editor

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let's get a couple of things straight here.

First, we'll have no further allegations of fraud. You have no evidence with which to substantiate it.

Second, regarding your statement that: "I exercise my right to disagree with your strange attatchment to the lie of the "Satisfaction Gaurantees" and your wish to continue fooling consumers by it"

is offensive, and if you continue in that vein we'll be parting company. If you can't discuss something without resorting to comments like that it will be better if you stop posting.

I am not attached to satisfaction guarantees at all - in fact I haven't made a single reference to them. I have no wish to continue fooling customers either, you've invented that.

What you seem unable to grasp is the difference between a guarantee or warranty that may be offered by a retailer, and your rights under consumer laws. The two are entirely separate, and no form of guarantee or undertaking given by a shop (or a manufacturer) can affect your rights in law.

When you buy something it's up to you to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the item you're buying is suitable for your needs before you part with your money - the legal phrase that applies is 'caveat emptor', translated as 'let the buyer beware'. It means that you, and you alone, are responsible for checking that the goods are suitable and of sufficient quality before you conclude a purchase.

When you buy something on-line the law (in the form of the Distance selling regulations)recognises the fact that you have not had a chance to physically inspect the goods before purchase, so you have the legal right to return an item within seven days of the date of purchase without giving any reason. It allows a chance to inspect for damage etc.

When you buy in a shop you do have the chance to inspect the goods before purchase, but the Sale of goods act applies. The goods must be of merchantable quality, and 'fit for purpose' - if you tell a salesperson that you want a computer that's suitable for intensive gaming use you must not be sold one that is only good for light internet and email use. Furthermore,if a computer develops a fault within six months of the date of purchase the law makes the assumption that the fault was 'inherent' on the day of purchase, unless the retailer can demonstrate otherwise. You have additional protection down the line, as the machine ages, but that's another, more complex scenario.

All of those measures are designed to ensure that you, as a consumer, are treated fairly, and also that the retailer is treated in the same way. You enter into a contract with the seller, not the manufacturer, and anything that either of them offer or provide by way of guarantee or warranty is an entirely separate matter, and one that is between you and them. No guarantee can include terms that limit your rights under the law.

It is generally acknowledged that the protection consumers have under UK and EU laws is the best in the world, and no government should be expected - as you seem to think - to hold your hand through the simple process of deciding whether you should part with your money or not. That responsibility is entirely yours.

You seem to believe that you, or your mother, should be able to return a computer to the shop simply because after buying it and trying it out you just don't like it. The world doesn't work that way I'm afraid; it never has, and it never will. If a shop wants to do that it's a goodwill gesture - there's no obligation involved.

You are perfectly at liberty to think otherwise, but I'm afraid you are in for a disappointment.

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I will not continue in any vein.

I am finishing as it is evidently pointless to continue. And I am very glad I have been able to write what I have been able to write until you have ended this.

I had no intention whatsoever - whatsoever - to be personally offensive, naturally. I say naturally, as nothing was clearer to me. Nothing. Indeed it is very offensive to me that you publish a comment saying something is clearly offensive and a person must not continue as such - "in that vein". I could not continue in that vein in any case, again, as there was no intention whatsoever - whatsoever - to cause offense. Naturally.

I would not know how to continue in such a vein, as you say. As I did have and now further would have no idea whatsoever what on earth would cause offence to you. I wouldn't know where to being, should I ever choose to, but such an idea is quite hideous to me.

I leave extremely offended indeed myself. In my very first thread of PC Advisor.

I have been a subscriber to PC World and Computer Active for years, and came to PC Advisor for the first time, from a Google search leading to this discussion forum. I am very disappointed.

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I point to my last sentence in my offended comment. As I was aware, this is a discussion forum. I now perceive I have been prevented from partaking in an adult, aware discussion forum. I would not wish to continue in anything other than that where one believes one can partake in serious, normal discussion, not being required to agree with either other posters or the forum overseer himself or herself. And I choose completely in any case now not to continue.

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