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.”

13428422_10154283954218923_3111672318934101763_n

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 ceoemail.com 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. http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

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 ‘co.uk’ 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!