Feel free to check this one out on what I assume will be public record once it’s over. Amazon are trying to keep me quiet on this one with a bribe… erm, “out of court settlement”, one condition of which is not telling people why they gave me the money I requested.
Sorry, I’m not going to shut up. Amazon have acted illegally, are currently acting illegally and will continue to do so as long as it’s in their financial best interests to do so. The general public has a right to know that Amazon refuse to recognise their legal responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act and that there are measures which can be taken to have goods repaired or replaced which have broken down outside of warranty.
Briefly, the tl;dr version:
- You buy something expensive
- It lasts 18 months – warranty was for 12
- It’s a decent piece of kit (not a cheap knock-off), from a known manufacturer and you paid a fair bit for it. You – and any other person – would reasonably expect it to last for (say) 3-4 years
- You can prove that the fault was inherent at the time of purchase and not the results of neglect, accidental damage, etc.
- The retailer is liable to repair/replace under Sale of Goods Act
- Amazon will deny this and try to foist you back at the manufacturer in the hope they may effect an out-of-warranty repair
- It’s not the manufacturer’s responsibility – go to Small Claims Court instead
- If you need to get a professional repair place to verify that the item did, indeed, have a faulty component then go ahead. You can claim any charge for this back as part of your case
- Amazon will attempt to buy you off with an out of court settlement, but they will admit no liability while doing so. Accept or not, it’s up to you – but one of the terms is that you can’t tell people about how crap they’ve been.
Full version, including back-story:
In January 2012, I purchased an Asus Transformer Prime as a late xmas present for myself. It was a shade under £500, from a reputable manufacturer and their flagship product at the time. I’m not showing off – I’m justifying the fact that I’d expect it to last longer than a year and a half before packing in.
And pack in it did. In August 2013, it just died. It would boot as far as the opening screen and then sit there going no further. I tried a factory reset, reflashing the BIOS… nothing worked. I then looked online and found that this problem while not endemic wasn’t exactly uncommon. A faulty component on the motherboard caused it, and it was a “back to the manufacturer” job to get it fixed.
I checked and the warranty was the manufacturer standard (and legal UK minimum) of 12 months. I did enquire direct with Asus, but was told that even to have the fault diagnosed by their repair centre would set me back over £50 in courier fees – their repair centre is in Eastern Europe.
So I contacted Amazon, citing their responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act; that if an item breaks down through an inherent fault present at the time of purchase, and has failed to last a “reasonable” length of time then the retailer is duty bound to organise a repair. That term “reasonable” is why I drew attention to the cost and brand of the tablet. If a knock-off £70 tablet I picked up on eBay that had been shipped from China broke down after 18 months, I’d chalk it up to experience. However, by buying a name brand I expected far better – and that’s reasonable.
However, and no small surprise, Amazon told me that as it was out of warranty it was of no concern to them and that I should try contacting the manufacturer who may choose to do an out of warranty repair out of the goodness of their own heart. I replied to this stating that they were having a laugh, re-directed them to the SoGA (which they’d failed to even address directly in their response) and got a reply I’ve had before: “send us the tablet and we’ll give you £75 of vouchers as a good will gesture”. And, of course, they’d probably refurb the tablet and have it on sale for twice that in a matter of weeks.
Next stop was Trading Standards who told me that they’d had a ton of complaints about Amazon doing this, gave me a reference code, cited the regulations which Amazon were breaching and asked me to keep them updated. They also said I could go through my credit card company using the section 75 regulations by which they share the retailer’s responsibility.
I did start down this line, but gave up once I’d gathered further evidence as – damn it – it’s not MBNA’s fault that Amazon were being dicks. I don’t knw whether they would attempt to recoup the money from Amazon or just chalk it up. Either way, it was Amazon at fault, they’d not gone bust or anything and therefore I should be challenging them.
In fairness to MBNA, each time they came back to me it was to request more information or to say that some evidence I have given them wasn’t acceptable. And each time, it was for a legitimate reason which I could accept. For instance, I initially had a work colleague examine the tablet to locate the fault. However, as he was a friend and not a business, they wouldn’t accept his testimony. I get that, so I went to a shop who charged me £25 to tell me the same thing.
That’s the point where I just thought “screw this” and downloaded the paperwork to lodge a Small Claims case against Amazon. After a brief bit of research online, there seems to be a near 100% success rate taking this route and I know I’m in the right, so I sent the tablet off for repair so that I would be claiming back the correct amount.
This took almost four weeks (by now, we were into January…) and the repair bill was around £250. Add to this the cost of a registered post letter to Amazon with my initial complaint (as recommended by Trading Standards, the £25 diagnosis fee and the cost of lodging the case was £71. This I could also claim back. I also added to my claim interest at the “judicial rate” (set by the court and I have no idea how much it is).
After a bit of back and forth between myself and the court clerks who ensured I had the documentation spot on, it went to Amazon so that they could choose how to respond.
They did so with a letter stating that they’d refund all the money I was claiming for with the exception of the interest. But… they were accepting no liability for the actual reason I was making the claim. By accepting their cash, I would not be allowed to disclose to any third party the details of the settlement.
Basically, they’re like the rich kid in the playground who reckons he can get away with whatever the hell he likes by buying someone off.
Well, you know what? Screw you, Amazon. I’m in the right. You acted illegally. You continue to act illegally. You know you’re acting illegally because it’s cheaper for you to do so than treat people – your customers, the reason you’re rolling in cash – within the bounds of the law.
More people need to be aware of the fact that they have rights to refunds, repairs and exchanges; that they can claim these things direct from you and not the manufacturer; that they can go to Small Claims Court if they need to and know that the law is on their side.
And if I accepted your bribe – because, in my eyes and in my opinion (he stated very clearly – OPINION as permitted under libel legislation) that is what it is – I would not be able to tell people about these rights and option.
So I’m going to let it go to court. I don’t expect Amazon to send a lawyer – it’s too expensive and their bottom line is the only thing of interest to them. I don’t expect them to lodge a defence – they don’t have one. I expect them to be found liable for all the charges and for the reasons I set forward.
And I will then be able to tell you all that this works. That you don’t have to be screwed over by a big company just because it reckons it can ignore the law. More importantly I will be able to do it with a clear conscience because I went the right way about sorting it and ensured that a judgement was made at the end of the process.
Seriously, the Small Claims forms do take a while to fill in but it’s worth it to get the cash back. I’ve done the same with PC World in the past and got the same runaround and response. It’s cheaper for a company to fob you off than respond correctly. For every one person like me, there are a thousand who’ll just shrug and buy a replacement. And I bet a fair percentage of them will buy from the same retailer who just screwed them over.
I learned. I’m not buying any expensive items from Amazon again. Ever. John Lewis will be our first port of call for electronics now as they do a two year warranty as standard.
Thanks for the life lesson, Amazon. I hope a lot more people read this and take back from you what is rightfully theirs.
UPDATE: A few people have asked for the address I sent the court papers to. This was 2014, but in case they’re still valid:
1-9 The Grove
Berkshire SL1 1QP