Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What Can You Do When Retailers Face Financial Difficulty?

Cambridgeshire Trading Standards have published the following advice relating to protecting yourself as a consumer when making purchases during this difficult economic time;

"With recent news of well-known high street retailers facing financial difficulty, you may be wondering what to do if goods you have paid for are not delivered or they are faulty and the company goes into administration.

Trading Standards have put together the following advice to help you to protect your money:

Credit card purchases

When buying goods or services with a cash price of more than £100 but less than £30,000, it is advisable to pay for at least part of them with a credit card. That way, if the retailer is unable to deliver the goods or there is a fault with them, the card provider will be liable for the goods too. 

Debit card purchases

If you pay by debit card, the provider (bank) or Visa/Mastercard terms may help with any claims you may have. However, unlike a credit card, this differs between providers so you should be clear about what assistance you will get for non-delivery or faulty goods. The card agreement will state any terms you need to meet for claims - such as timescales for reporting a breach of contract by the retailer and any evidence you must provide. If you meet the terms for making a claim but are unhappy with the card provider’s response you should follow their own complaints procedure.

 For both credit and debit card purchases, if you remain dissatisfied with the card provider’s response you can raise the matter with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk who will decide if the complaint was valid and award damages if applicable.

Buying by PayPal

The same procedure for claims for debit card payments also applies to PayPal payments as, although PayPal aren’t a bank, they are signed up to the FOS. Other money transfer services have similar terms to PayPal but may not be signed up to the FOS for dispute resolution. You are therefore advised to check their terms.

Cash or cheque

If buying goods by cash or cheque then unfortunately this is a case of ‘buyer beware’. 

Another common concern for consumers is the validity of gift cards or vouchers for a company that has entered administration. Unfortunately these are accepted only at the discretion of the administrators. There is no express right to use them - even though they are effectively cash.

If you require any further advice or information about any of the matters in this article please contact our partner, Citizens Advice Consumer Service, on 08454 040506.  For business advice and support contact 0345 0455206."