Don’t let faulty electrical products give you a customer service shock

Don’t let faulty electrical products give you a customer service shock

After Black Friday (week?!) and Cyber Monday and with many electrical bargains snapped up what do you do when an item is faulty? Do you take it back? Do you get fobbed off? Do you still use it?

It is National Consumer Week and a survey from Citizens Advice found 66% of people have had an issue with a faulty electrical item such as a TV, a mobile phone or a household appliance in the last two years.  Just over half of people surveyed (53%) asked the retailer to provide a refund, replace the item or repair the product. But around one in four (28%) said the retailer turned them away, either redirecting them to the manufacturer or refusing to help.  Only 61% of those who were initially turned away eventually got some form of redress after being persistent.

Emma Drackford, Head of Communications at Electrical Safety First, highlights the dangers of not returning faulty products. “We know that many people continue to use an electrical item, even when they are aware that it could be faulty or dangerous. Our research shows that only 10% to 20% people respond to a recall, despite the huge risks of electrical shock, fire or even death that faulty electrical items can present.  We have seen cases of faulty products such as fake Nutribullets which have caught fire after several weeks or even months of use. If you’re aware that your product is fake, substandard or has been recalled we urge you to stop using it immediately and report the fault to the manufacturer or retailer. Seven in eight accidental fires of electrical origin are caused by products; continuing to use a faulty electrical product is simply too big a risk to take.”


Elizabeth Doyle-Davies plugged in her Amazon Kindle Fire charger overnight. It caught fire, causing huge damage to her home and meaning that the family to evacuate the house. This shows what can happen when using faulty electrical items.”


fire damage caused by faulty goods

Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow consumer blogger, campaigner and author of How to Complain The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! is not surprised by the statistics. She hears many of the fob offs that retailers give consumers, “Take it back to the manufacturer” or “We will only replace the product” are extremely common. “Unless consumers are fully aware of their legal rights and assert them too many will get fobbed off by poor policy and untrained staff.”

So, what should you do if you have bought one of those faulty electrical items? “First and foremost know your rights” she says!

  • Under the Consumer Rights Act those electrical items, should be as described, match the description, be of satisfactory quality and last a reasonable length of time. So if the item is in breach of any of these then up to 30 days you are entitled to a full refund. After this time you may have to accept a repair or replacement.
  • Give a gift receipt. Your rights transfer to the recipient but remember the 30 day rule, so you may want to try the item first.
  • Do not be fobbed off by “Take it to the manufacturer”. Your contract is always with the retailer who sold you the product.
  • If you do not get a satisfactory response to your complaint try emailing the CEO about the issue. You can find their contact details on the website.
  • If you are still not happy with the reply, ask for a letter of deadlock or if after 8 weeks from the initial complaint, take it to the relevant Ombudsman. Many of the retailers selling electrical items are members of The Furniture Ombdusman so when purchasing items you can also look to see if the retailer is a member before you buy.
  • You have the same consumer rights whether you buy in a shop or online. If a retailer says you have to pay return postage this is not correct! You may have to pay if you just change your mind (under the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 – you can send items back for a full refund up to 14 days after receiving them).

How to spot and avoid a fake electrical purchase

1-electrical-safety-first-primaryRecently an investigation from Electrical Safety First revealed that one in six consumers had bought a fake electrical product as a Christmas gift in the past. The Charity found that the majority of people couldn’t tell a genuine from a fake electrical product. Electrical Safety First is a UK Charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found on their website.

Buying a fake isn’t just a scam, fake electrical items have been known to explode and catch fire. If you’ve bought the goods through social media or an online marketplace, it can be much more difficult to trace the seller. Before you take advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any other kind of sales deals, I asked Emma Drackford, Head of Communications at Electrical Safety First to share some advice  on the best ways to spot and avoid buying a fake. #switchedon National Consumer Week.

How to avoid buying fake electrical goods?
Our top tip on how to avoid buying a fake is to purchase electrical products directly from reputable retailers, this way you can be assured you’re buying the real thing.  Some fake products can be almost impossible to identify as they have sophisticated packaging and design. However, internally they are usually missing vital safety components meaning the products could be at risk of exploding.

The most common ways to come across fakes:
According to our consumer research, most people who have purchased fakes have done so on online marketplaces (such as Amazon, eBay, etc.), but there is a growing trend of buying fakes on social media.

If you’re shopping for a bargain online, keep your eyes peeled for any of the following signs.

How to spot fake electrical products online:

  • If a bargain looks too good to be true, it probably is! Check prices and shop around, if possible visit the high street.
  • Beware of a product with solely glowing reviews, especially if the reviewers aren’t verified. Some sites cross-reference user reviews with their buyer database and label those people as “verified purchasers”.
  • If there is no address supplied, or there is just a PO Box, be wary; many fake electrical goods are manufactured overseas, where they will not be safety tested and are produced as quickly and cheaply as possible. A ‘’ URL doesn’t guarantee the website is UK-based.
  • Beware of words like ‘genuine’ ‘real’ or ‘authentic.’ Most reputable retailers don’t need to use these descriptions to sell their products.
  • If you can’t see a padlock symbol on the bottom of the screen, do not enter your payment details. Look for websites that allow you to pay safely.

How to spot if you’ve bought a fake item

  • Inspect the packaging and item carefully. Look out for the tell-tale signs of flimsy packaging and substandard printing, such as spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Compare your item to an online image from a trusted, high street retailer.
  • Look for a legitimate safety certification label. All electrical products will have one or more safety certifications on their label if made by a legitimate manufacturer. If the certification mark is present only on the packaging, but not on the product itself, there’s a good chance the product is fake.
  • Make sure everything that should be there is there. Fake products may not include supplementary materials such as a manual or a product registration card or even all the parts!
  • Check the plug. If you’ve purchased your product from a UK retailer, look to see whether the appliance has a three-pin UK plug or charger.
  • Trust your instinct. If you are still uncertain about your product for any reason, you’re probably right to be wary. Visit the high street to compare your product to those on sale in store; if your item varies in any way do not use it.

What to do if you think you might have purchased a fake electrical product:
If you suspect you have purchased a fake, stop using it immediately. Report it to Trading Standards so that they can take action against the seller; selling fake products is illegal and puts people’s lives at risk. For advice on how to be refunded and for more advice on how to spot a fake, visit Spot the fake.

Not fake but still faulty?
See Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Top Tips on How to Complain and for much more information, advice, guidance, tips and templates on complaining effectively get the book. How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Making Light Work of Black Friday

Making Light Work of Black Friday

A recent Which? investigation into Black Friday revealed that 49% of products on offer were actually cheaper in the months before or after Black Friday.

Here are ten top tips for making the most of Black Friday this year.

1) Do you really need it?
Last year there were numerous examples of people arguing/fighting over products and then saying they didn’t know why they had bought what they had! Be prepared and whilst you can be calm and not be taken over by the moment make a list of things you want/need and/or would consider buying and add to it as you think of them. Use comparison websites and check regularly for prices and then on Black Friday check again and work out who is cheaper on the day and if it likely to be cheaper somewhere else before or after Black Friday. Keep your list of stockists, dates and prices, if you’re super organised use a spreadsheet!

2) Don’t get carried away
Have a price in mind for the amount(s) you are prepared to spend on an individual or total items. It is easy to get carried away especially in store as retailers put out items to entice you to spend more. That’s when you are most likely to buy things you don’t want or need so keep an eye on your list of items and prices!

3) Do your research and shopping online
Where possible do your research and shopping online. You are less likely to get caught up in the heat of the moment and if you are attracted to a bargain as a Christmas present, for example, you will have time to think about it before purchasing.

4) Remember, Black Friday is not just for Christmas
Or something like that. Many retailers spread their deals over the month and others throughout the year, in the belief that consumers will spend the same amount over a year whether the majority is across all year or concentrated over a few weeks.

5) Make sure that a promise is a promise
Some places have a price promise which is great. But read the small print! Some stores such as John Lewis won’t actually match an online price. Others will only match the price if it was on sale that exact same day and most, if not all, will tell you it has to be exactly the same item/bundle. So, exactly the same colour, make, model, free gift, warranty etc. (Although remember your consumer rights provide more protection than any “free warranty”).

6) Exercise your rights if needed
Under the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015, the item must be of satisfactory quality, match the description be fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time. This is the same for goods in sales, flash or otherwise. If it’s less than 30 days since the point of purchase you are entitled to a full refund, a repair or replacement thereafter. (But you can still accept this before the 30 days if you want to keep that bargain price!)

7) Buy wisely and know what to do if you change your mind
You are not entitled to a refund if you simply change your mind, so buy wisely! However, when buying off premises (such as online) you have 14 days from when you receive the item(s) in which to change your mind under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. Check the terms and conditions for returns though as you may have to pay return postage if the item is not in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

8) Transfer your consumer rights if it’s a present
Get a gift receipt where possible. The recipient can then use this if necessary. Remember though that the 30 day rule applies from the date of purchase not the date you give the present!

9) Don’t forget Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday follows Black Friday. There will be more bargains to be had. Also remember that bargains won’t stop after this time. In fact, as retailers reassess sales there will be many reductions on a wider variety of goods over a longer period of time.

10) Watch out for extras
Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 retailers are not allowed to charge you for items they put in your online shopping basket or that you have bought as a result of a pre-ticked box. It is still happening, so keep an eye out for this and report them if and when you see it!

How to keep the “Happy” in Christmas shopping

Christmas paper red square with How to keep the happy in Christmas shopping in red box, black frameHow to keep the “Happy” in Christmas shopping

As the bargains start earlier and earlier so does the Christmas shopping! But what happens if you or the recipient change your mind, something is faulty or either of these things happen after the big day? Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! shares her top ten tips for ensuring you know and use your rights when shopping this Christmas and how to keep the stress at bay.


1) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods that are fit for purpose, match the description and last a reasonable length of time. If the item does not meet these requirements you have 30 days from purchase (not from when the recipient is given the item) to claim a refund. After the 30 days you are entitled to a replacement or repair.

2) Digital goods are also covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 but the 30 day rule does not apply to non-tangible goods, such as downloads.

3) If you buy something and you change your mind the retailer does not have to give you a refund but most big stores will do so. However, if you bought online (or actually anywhere that’s not on the retailer’s premises) then under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 you can return the item(s) for a full refund. Whether you pay return postage will depend on the company’s terms and conditions. (There are a few exemptions to this such as bespoke items). Unless the company is in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 then it does not have to pay the return postage.

4) Keep the receipt, or any other proof of payment, such as credit card bill or the email confirmation. If the item is faulty you will need this to claim redress.

5) If you give the recipient a gift receipt then they can also use this to ensure their Consumer Rights Act rights.

6) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to deliveries within a reasonable length of time. You are entitled to redress if this is not the case. Also, if you have paid for a timed or named date of delivery and this doesn’t happen then you are also entitled to this being refunded.

7) You are also entitled to any out of pocket expense you incur if a delivery doesn’t happen on the day specified. So, if you take a day off work for example to receive a delivery and it doesn’t turn up the retailer must provide redress. You will probably need to provide evidence of this.

8) If a delivery doesn’t turn up, remember that your contract is always with the company to which you gave the money. So, however much the retailer tries to fob you off and say “Contact the courier” it is the retailer that must do the chasing and provide the redress, not the courier.

9) When buying things in the sale your rights remain the same as at any other time unless the fault is pointed out at the time.

10) If you need to complain, be polite, objective and assert your legal rights. If you are not returning an item in person write rather than call wherever possible, as this provides you with a better evidence trail should you need to take the matter further. State what you want to resolve the matter and what you will do if they do not provide a satisfactory response, such as sharing the issue on social media, going to the relevant Ombudsman or Small Claims Court etc. You can also go higher in a company by using which provides contact details for the CEOs of companies.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!



For more tips, advice, guidance, template complaint letters and your consumer rights see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!




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Exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – What are your rights in the UK?

On the 2nd September Samsung recalled all of its Galaxy Note 7s after an internal investigation uncovered a serious battery flaw that was causing some users’ handsets to spontaneously catch fire. However, it soon became apparent that the issue was not fixed and on the 10th October it recalled them all. It has now ceased production of the device.

Under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, manufacturers are obliged to do as much as is practicably possible to inform customers about a problem. This includes publishing a notice in such form and such manner as is likely to bring to the attention of purchasers of the product the risk the product poses and the fact of the recall. Producers and distributors must inform their local authority (typically, the Trading Standards Department). Products are then placed on the Trading Standards recall list, but other things can be done as well, such as adverts in papers, contacting customers directly, putting information on websites etc.

The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) believes that millions of dangerous appliances are still in households across the UK due to inadequate recall systems. With only 10 – 20% of recalled products ever being returned or repaired there could be many of these phones still in use.

Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! – says “Samsung have a lot to lose if they don’t get this right. But it seems they have been quick to identify the problem, launch a recall and get a solution for customers as soon as possible.”

So what are your rights and what should you do when your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is recalled?

  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that items must be fit for purpose and free from defects. You are therefore entitled to a refund, repair or replacement and any out of pocket expenses incurred due to the fault.
  • The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 dictate that manufacturers must make arrangements for the collection and/or return of the product for destruction from consumers who have purchased the product.
  • The Consumer Protection Act 1987 states that if you are harmed by an unsafe product you can sue the manufacturer. You can begin your court case up to three years from the date of the injury. In some cases, you can even sue up to ten years after the product was sold. If, for instance, you sustain a personal injury or damage to your property it is in this instance where the manufacturer is responsible not, the trader. The value of the damage claimed must be more than £275.
  • In this case, Samsung has said it will refund or replace the phone with another model. The replacement offered will be a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, with a refund of the price difference.
  • Contact the retailer where you bought the ‘phone and arrange the refund or replacement at no cost whatsoever to you.

See more All you need to know about product recalls