Amazon.co.uk – yet another dodgy retailer

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Cheap prices, no concept of consumer rights

I buy quite a lot from Amazon. I like them. Cheap, convenient, easy to find anything you want… but like any company, their true colours only come to the fore when you try to get money back off them. As I am now discovering.

In January 2011 I bought an Acer Aspire 5742Z laptop. I’m using it right now – just. I like it, still do. Except for one problem. It’s taken to overheating somewhat rapidly and shutting down if I do too much on it. By “too much”, I can mean watching 6 YouTube videos in a row. Or recoding an mp4 video as avi. Or re-encoding a pile of mp3s. Or playing a game. Or opening Chrome with 12 tabs to restore.

Up until around February, this simply wasn’t an issue. I started to notice the machine resetting a bit for no adequate reason. Then I noticed the fan was going mental more than it used to. I did the obvious and checked it for obstructions, gave it a blast out with air, ensured it wasn’t blocked externally, elevated the machine a little more from the flat, hard surface it was being used on and so forth.

None of this helped. In fact, it gradually got worse. I bought an external fan which the machine is currently sat on top of, and installed some core temperature monitoring software (Core Temp v0.99.7, if  you’re interested). This revealed that, while idling (ie around 25-35% CPU tending to background tasks), my CPU was averaging around 70 degrees C. This was with the external fan. It used to idle nearer 40 – 50 degrees without the fan.

Try and run anything processor-intensive and it rises into the 80’s. If it hits 90 the machine shuts down as it is meant to.

This makes it impossible to perform tasks such as video conversion as it powers off before it’s managed to make it through one file.

Basically, it’s broken. There is a fault within the machine that was present when it was purchased which has taken until now to manifest itself, and it is getting progressively worse.

I contacted Acer who told me “Sorry, but it’s out of the 1 year manufacturer’s warranty. We may be able to fix it, but it’ll likely cost you.” Fair enough.

I then contacted Amazon who said “Sorry, but we only give a year’s warranty on electrical goods. Take it to the manufacturer.” This is bullshit.

There’s a little thing called the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (amended 1994) which states that goods should be:

  • Of a Satisfactory Quality, i.e. of a standard that a reasonable person would consider to be satisfactory – generally free from fault or defect, as well as being fit for their usual purpose, of a reasonable appearance and finish, safe and durable
  • Fit for the purpose – as well as being fit for the purpose for which they are generally sold, goods should also be fit for any specific or particular purpose made known at the time of the agreement
  • As described – goods should correspond with any description applied to them. This could be verbally, words or pictures on a sign, packaging or an advert.

These rights are valid for 5 years (Scotland) or 6 years (England / Wales) from the date of purchase, and the responsible party is the retailer not the manufacturer. If an item has become faulty within 6 months of purchase, it’s a no-brainer. After that, it’s the duty of the customer to prove the fault was there at the time of purchase and isn’t the result of accidental damage, negligence, etc.

Of note is the fact that good should be expected to last for a reasonable length of time based on their value, branding and so forth. There is no hard and fast rule under law for that but (and I got this example from another website) a £600 TV should be expected to last more than 18 months, whereas a £12 kettle maybe not so much. I’ve got a £380 laptop that’s started to fail after 13 months and is now unusable for one of the purposes for which I purchased it after 15.
Also of interest is that if an item was bought using a credit card – even if part-purchased e.g. part cash/part credit – the credit card company is also liable. I paid with £60-ish worth of vouchers, but the balance on, ironically enough, an amazon.co.uk branded credit card. I’ll be talking to them tomorrow as well.

Now, I don’t expect a full swap out for a brand new item. I’d be happy with a replacement of the exact same machine. I’d also be fine if they repaired it and covered the costs – to which I am most definitely entitled. I will also insist that my rights are reserved in that should I accept the repair I do not waive my rights to future refunds should those repairs fail.

But in the meantime, I’m trying to talk to a brick wall at Amazon who stated that if I wanted to pursue the matter I would have to raise it via a solicitor.

A solicitor. For a failing laptop which is utterly, totally, in black and white their responsibility under publicly-available British law.

Amazon, you are seriously having a joke.

My jobs tomorrow:

1) Contact Amazon again as I don’t expect them to be back in touch though they said they would be
2) Contact Acer again to see if they’ll do an out of warranty repair – you never know. If they refuse to do it for free, then get a quote.
3) Contact the credit card company and inform them of the situation
4) Contact Citizen’s Advice and the Trading Standards offices
5) Get hold of some papers for Small Claims

… in that order.

So just a word of warning, folks. If you buy electrical goods via Amazon, don’t expect them to be aware of your consumer rights. In fact, expect them to lie outright to you down the phone and claim you don’t have any rights and that any attempts to utilise said rights will have to involve you paying for a solicitor.

Updates as they occur.

UPDATE

A lot of what I was going to mention was posted by Chris in the Comments. Amazon Europe is based in Luxembourg and therefore come under European Law. The Sale of Goods Act supercedes those regulations as it’s actually more restrictive and beneficial to the consumer, but should a retailer argue that they’re not within the UK (which is actually no argument at all) then they still fall within European legislation.

Amazon have already been “spoken to” by the Luxembourg government for being… well… shit as far as customer care is concerned. However, this seems to have had no affect, and the authorities don’t seem to have bothered exacting any of the punishments they legally could. As such, Amazon are continuing in their merry way, pissing on customers.

I wrote to Amazon and explained to them what I would do:

1) Check with Acer in case it was a known fault with the unit, in which case there was a chance they would repair it (outside of warranty) for free

2) Otherwise, check with a local repair shop as to the problem and any possible solution. Obtain a quote and expect it to be dealt with by Amazon as per my rights under the Distance Selling regulations

3) If no luck was forthcoming, take my quote to the Small Claims Court and just wait for them to sort it out

Amazon’s response was a strange one. They offered me £57 in Amazon vouchers or a £76 refund. I think, though this wasn’t made clear, that the refund option would involve me sending them my laptop. They claimed this was a good will gesture in recompense for a laptop that had been used for 16 months (the warranty is for 12), and in no way was them agreeing to my terms. They believed (my arse) that they had no responsibility within the laws mentioned to resolve any issues.

As it turned out, I could get the unit opened and fixed for around £65 (it was a fault with the unit, present as a result of manufacturing error), which I did and claimed the £57 in vouchers. I made it clear that I reserved the right to contact them again should further faults appear and that I was not accepting the vouchers in lieu of their responsibilities, but as payment for them as they were legally obliged to recompense me for the repair.

Amazon responded that they were mistaken with the original amounts and increased the vouchers to £76 which were credited to my account shortly thereafter.

I just don’t get this. They refuse to admit liability (although they are, in law, liable) and then give me more than I claimed as recompense.

Surely it would make more sense economically to give me the amount I claimed (cheaper for them) and from a business point of view to make a customer happy by saying “yes, of course” in the first place?

Like Chris, I am now wary about using Amazon for large purchases. A shame – for them – as I’ve never had such an issue before and, in fact, bought a lot such stuff from them in the past. Well done on being dicks and rattling a very loyal customer, Amazon. Seriously stupid.

 

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7 thoughts on “Amazon.co.uk – yet another dodgy retailer”

  1. My son had a HP G60 which developed the same fault, but to the point where it couldn’t even re-install windows XP! Never though of persuing it via the sale og goods act (Wish I had it was only 18 months old, and apparently a very common problem on the G60. Notorious for overheating). He decided he wanted a new latop anyway, so gave me the old one to try and salvage. Evernyuall when I got time, I dismantled it, cleaned it out (managed to get far more filth out of it after it was opened) then just put a bucket load of cooling paste everywhere. Laptop now working better than it did when it was new. My best guess is yours is the same. They use the minimum amount of paste they can, and over time, it goes “off” and cracks, reducing the thermal connectivity.

  2. Of course they know your rights. But the whole “weight of evidence shifts to the consumer” thing is just a nice way of saying “beyond this date, it’s an issue for the small claims court”.

    After all, evidence requires someone to judge the evidence. Ideally, a judge.

    r maybe I’m just becoming too Americanised.

  3. Dewi – I think the whole country is becoming more Americanised. At least you can still spell “Americanised”.

    Dale – may look into that. I’ve already taken it apart to check for dust and hair, but drew the line at removing all the heat protection stuff as (I think – can’t quite remember) I think it needed some kind of tool to remove that I don’t have. Might dig out that PDF manual again…

    As it stands, Amazon are offering me £76 in cash as a “refund” (I assume this means sending them the laptop back) or £56 in vouchers which I think involves me keeping the machine. Ironic if I used it to buy a £10 tube of thermal paste and fixed the issue.

  4. Can spell Americanised; can’t spell “Or”.

    The infamous Red Ring of Death on the XBox is caused by the same thing, and has the same fix. My guess: over time, the crap thermal paste they use changes from hest-conductor, to dried-out insulator.

  5. I recently ran into a similar problem:
    My cheap ASUS graphics card packed in the other day after 1 1/2 years. It has a 3 year warranty with ASUS. The product was purchased from Amazon.
    I contacted ASUS who told me I had to go through the retailer and that under UK law the retailer must support this. They also gave me a number for what we call Consumer direct over here which is a public service that will tell you all your rights in these situations. I felt this was a bit strange that they’d given me this number without my asking for it.

    I then contacted Amazon. Amazons representative told me that ASUS was completley wrong and they would only support the device for 12 months – END OF.
    So I rang the consumer direct help line that ASUS had so kindly provided.
    Sure enough Consumer Direct informed me that I was not only protected by UK Law but also European law and that Amazon had to support me for a reasonable amount of time on the product – and that the 3 year warranty with ASUS proved that I was well within the reasonable period of time. (Amazon Europe has it’s HQ based in Luxembourg)

    I’ve never had a problem with Amazon before and over time I’ve spent a lot of money with them – but I do feel betrayed this time as they have outright lied to me.
    After researching the matter further it turns out I’m not the only one – plenty of people are running into this – and the European Consumer Center has looked into this previously. I consider it quite bad that they as such a large company can continue to get away with this.

    I’ve done the whole brick wall email thing with Amazon now.. and it seems the only way forward is through small claims court.
    Unfortunately for a £35 item I don’t have time to take this all the way.

    However I was about to spend £1k on Canon EOS hardware through Amazon. This has made me think twice before clicking the one click buy button! I shall now be revisiting my local camera stores!

    Amazon have lost a good customer.

  6. Chris, thanks for the reply and for reminding me I’d not updated my post. I did actually get some satisfaction from Amazon, but without them actually acting under the rules with which they are bound or by them admitting that they are bound by such rules!

    I’ll try to get the time this evening to pop a follow-up post on the blog.

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