Photo Credit : Record Player Pros
It’s come to my attention that two well known large HiFi manufacturing firms who have bases outside the UK, but have online shops for UK customers, charge restocking fees on distance sold products. Both firms are in the streaming / server fields and sell to the dealer network in the UK too. So this article is to make you aware and so as to not suffer to scams of restocking fees, if buying HiFi in the UK.
I did a piece on my website about COVID-19 selling and making consumers aware, in the UK, that if a manufacturer offers a scheme to try at home, in effect this is no different from distance selling rules, and therefore not to give undue prominence to brands for other brands benefit. This news now takes the heat up. Out of the frying pan into the bunsen burner perhaps.
The situation in the UK, is that The Consumer Contracts Regulations (2013) allows a consumer 14 days after receiving goods to cancel an order for a FULL REFUND, with no reasons being needed to be provided. So called ‘distance selling’ rules. This will include where consumers have home tested products. The rules help those consumers buy over the phone, by email or Internet, the opportunity of purchase, where otherwise they have no chance of testing products and intermediate inspection, like they otherwise would do at a HiFi dealer. All the more important in the lock down.
One of these two firms is still stating in their website policy that they will not provide any refund at all where a distance buying consumer has ‘loaded more than 30 CDs onto their servers’, within this 14 day period. This firms website is partly run by a British company. Now call me stupid but wouldn’t you want to load lots of CDs on if you’ve just bought a server and are enthusiastic to see what your main tunes sound like? It is important to point out that fair use of products doesn’t come into proceedings so far as the 2013 Act is concerned. In other words, you could have loaded 300 CDs onto the server, realised it has a feature or dis-benefit you don’t like, and exercise your rights within 14 days under distance selling, to cancel the sale of the product for a full refund and any standard P&P paid. This is fair if you discover parts of the product are not suitable, to liking, or performance.
Some in the US may think this is barmy – we don’t have the luxury, so why do you? Don’t blame me, the liberal elite is perhaps more prevalent in Blighty. But the point is, this charging of such fees is illegal in the UK and unscrupulous and basically fraudulent to unwitting consumers. How on earth can a reviewer comment about products being good on one hand, which incidentally both these brands are, but then have this information in the back of their mind to the detriment of consumers. I’m sorry it doesn’t work that way for me.
The other firm would require you to tick their terms of conditions imposing on you a 10% restocking fee if you return the item within 14 days. Checking their website, I and others, were able to proceed with the sale in sterling (GBP), all the way until giving card details and confirming an order. On raising with the CEO I was told that they don’t sell to the UK on their website. That’s odd I thought – my eyes weren’t deceiving me when I was successfully able to go through the process. The firm then removed the option to buy from the UK from the website by deselecting UK in the country list (products still available from UK dealers at same prices). I was then told the following, which clearly is a shady attempt to modify in contract, by agreeing T&Cs, the distance selling rules that apply in the UK;
The response above clearly inappropriately miss-applies selling to UK citizens in companies operating outside territory. If you sell to UK citizens you abide by local rules, even whether the local trading standards bodies have an affinity to challenge the behaviour legally or not. All the more pertinent as they have a European Sales and Marketing Director.
Further, this response shows a blatant disregard for rules and regulations, no information about charges applied, who has been charged, and what the firms are doing to rectify the situation. It too begs the question, as similar rules exist in EU member states, which other countries customers have been affected?
Clearly I have removed references to the firms, as I’d expect threats of litigation if I didn’t – and to be honest, I don’t need the hassle. But I would be entitled to mention these firms within my rights and a right to fair comment, available to journalists. I’m posting this article for the sake of consumer protection, and in fairness to other HiFi firms.
To be clear I want these firms to do well, but within the ambit of the local laws and rules, and it is not for them to try and get advantage against their competition in this way, so it is as much for me to raise this for the benefit of the industry and other properly operating companies (the vast majority), as it is for consumers and I have no issue doing this, as clear here. These two firms are not firms I would work with, because personally I couldn’t potentially assist them in favourable reviews, knowing this approach. It doesn’t mean I don’t have high regard for their products if they fare well against competition and it won’t denigrate fairness in this regard.
So if you are buying online, it goes without saying perhaps, but always check T&Cs first, check any restocking fees. A look at a significant number of UK HiFi dealers website return policies shows that they too charge restocking fees, when they can’t. Also quoting old 7 day timespans to cancel under previous original year 2000 Distance Selling Regs, as well as common mistakes around charging P&P on returns, as well as mistaken time periods to return goods.
Note : HiFi dealers and manufacturers are at liberty to reasonably charge fees on returns for damaged products, or if all content is not returned including packaging. Alternatively they can refuse returns on easily perishable items, or if the item is bespoke and personalised to the customer e.g unique HiFi cables.