BHS and online retailing: delivery of faulty goods should be compensated

I haven’t had a lot of luck the last year buying stuff on-line. I have had a few deliveries of items that have been dead on arrival. In some cases they have been broken in transit, in others they were faulty at the factory. Manufacturers or retailers can obviously save money on testing if they just send any old junk out to anyone, assuming that some will come back. But customers are being used as unpaid testers. They have to unpackage the item, get it up and running, discover it doesn’t work, have to contact the retailer and/or manufacturer, fill in some forms, repackage it, take it back to a post office, check that a refund has arrived and then re-order a new one. This is a substantial amount of work.

This week I bought a lamp from BHS. It arrived in a badly damaged box, obviously having had some severe trauma somewhere, but I couldn’t immediately see the damage to the lamp shade until I had fully unwrapped it, at least 10 mins given the extreme overwrapping. Given the additional tape on the box, I deduced that it must already have been returned and had just been sent out again, with me as the unfortunate recipient. I will have to send it back. They don’t provide a phone number on the documentation that arrives, but loads of instructions about all the things I have to do, just to send it back and eventually get a refund. At the end of all that, I will be no better off then I was before I ever went near BHS but will have wasted a lot of my time and effort. I am furious with them.

I emailed them to complain but have heard nothing.

At the very least, when something is faulty, they should collect it from your home and bring you a replacement at the same time. If they expect me to work as an unpaid quality tester, then they should compensate me for my time – at my standard rates.

As it is, I paid £30. I have a broken light and some packaging to dispose of. I can either write off the £30 or waste £100 of my time to get it refunded. I suspect many people would just write it off, which obviously is of great benefit to the suppliers.

We really need a change in the law so that retailers are fully responsible to collect and make good, with no significant effort required by the customer, or fair compensation to be paid. Until then, companies like BHS will be able to send out faulty goods, with appalling customer service, not even provide proper contact details, ignore customers complaints, and get away with it. The only recourse customers have is the power to embarrass them online.

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