In 2009 I bought a set of Sennheiser IE6 headphones from Dixons Tax Free at Stanstead Airport for the price of £104.34. I was very pleased with the headphones – they were the best sounding headphones I have ever heard. However, approximately 4 weeks later the outer casing where the cable enters the right earpiece had come loose (it was somewhat loose on the left earpiece too). These headphones had normal use – it looks as though the plastic that enters the earpiece has become unglued I felt that when you spend more than £100 on a set of headphones it is not unreasonable to expect them to last more than 4 weeks or so of normal use.
I initially contacted Sennheiser, who told me that I had to return the headphones to the point of purchase but that they had a one-year guarantee.
I initially contacted Dixon’s aftersales helpline. After waiting what seemed like an eternity to talk to someone, I was told by a very disinterested man that I needed to return the headphones to my local currys digital for them to take up the matter.
I drove to Currys digital in Hove – my nearest (although not particularly near) branch. I asked for a replacement set of headphones (either the same, or a similar top of the range pair). The lady who served me told me that they did not stock these top-end items (only airport stores do), but that she could offer me a refund. However, she was unable to do that at the time because the stock code for these headphones would not be on their in-store computer system. She took a photocopy of my receipt and my telephone number and promised to ring me when she had contacted head office to get the product placed on their system so that I could return for the refund.
I heard nothing.
A week later I decided to phone them to see what was happening. I could not find their number but instead was given a general helpline number. The person I spoke to refused to give me the phone number of Currys digital in Hove: I was told to phone another general helpline number. Again, after wasting more time in a queue I spoke to another unfriendly person who eventually punched me through to the store. I spoke to the manager. She told me that the only conversation anyone on her staff remembered having about headphones had been one in which the member of staff concerned had explained that Currys would not take them back. I told her that this conversation was not the one with me. She pursued this line or argument for a while. When she finally realised that I was not the person to whom this ‘headphone return policy’ had been explained and that I had been told that I would be phoned to arrange a refund, she denied anyone having spoken to me. She further explained that because the headphones were ‘physically damaged’ they could not be returned and I would have to take it up with the manufacturer. These statements were both lies. I explained that a member of her staff had inspected the headphones and deemed them suitable for refund and had given me clear and unambiguous reassurance that I would get a full refund in due course. So clear and unambiguous was her reassurance that I had bought a replacement set from Amazon.co.uk in the meantime. As you might imagine, a long exchange followed, in which I expressed my frustration at having been sent from helpline to helpline, then told to drive to a shop to have the product inspected, which I had done, then been offered a refund that was now being retracted for no apparent reason other than Currys could not take back goods that had been deemed to be returnable two weeks before.
I explained precisely to the manager the conversation and reassurances that I had from her staff two weeks before. She continued to deny that anyone had had that conversation with me. She asked me to hold the line. Unknown to her, while on hold, I could hear a conversation that she was having with a member of staff while presumably covering the receiver. The gist of this exchange was that the member of staff told her that she did remember talking to me and backed up everything that I had already explained. The manager asked her why she had not contacted me or completed the refund. The member of staff said that she had needed her line manager to do something and then she had forgotten all about it. The manager said ‘oh, that’s really bad. That’s really poor’ and seemed a little embarrassed that she had spent five minutes implying that I was a liar. When she came back on the phone, she was considerably more friendly and conciliatory. She told me to come into the store again and she would do everything that she could to personally sort out the situation.
I drove over there again. Upon arrival the manager inspected the headphones and said that they were physically damaged and they could not take them back. This was in fairly stark contrast to her conciliatory stance on the phone. I explained to her that the headphones were in the same condition as when her colleague inspected them two weeks ago and had deemed them suitable for replacement. the manager said that their condition might have changed over the last two weeks. This implication that I somehow wanted to dupe Currys by taking these headphones in two weeks ago for inspection and then take them home and break them is not only ridiculous but offensive too. She told me that I had to contact the manufacturer because it was not Currys responsibility to resolve these matters. That is a lie.
The ‘physical damage’ policy explained to me by the manager is nonsense. According to her I cannot return the product because the outer casing was faulty (I would argue not fit for purpose under normal use). This fault is visible. According to the manager, if the speaker cone had blown (also physical damage) then I could return the product because this would not be classed as physical damage because the damage can't be seen. (I don’t claim to be an electronics expert but if a speaker cone rips, it is physically damaged whether you can see it or not.) I put to the manager two scenarios: the first is mine, I use the headphones normally and the cable housing comes loose. This is a product defect (maybe not on all products but certainly on mine) not a fault of mine. The second is another person who wilfully overdrives the speaker cones to destruction. He has physically damaged the cones through neglect. According to the manager, the first person (me) does not get a refund because the product is ‘physically damaged’ (to use her term), but the second person does because (despite them misusing the product) their physical damaged doesn’t count as physical damage because it can’t be seen by her. This policy is crazy: damage is damage regardless of how much effort is required to see it. Her response to this line of enquiry was to keep repeating 'it's physically damaged' over and over again like an idiot.
My rights as a consumer include the following (http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/after_you_buy/know-your-rights/electrical/):
(1) If you have used the product a few times or haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to check it, you are probably entitled to a refund for a fault or poor description, or alternatively you may request a replacement;
(2) If you have used it more than a few times or have had a reasonable opportunity to check them, you are probably still entitled to a repair or replacement. A repair should be carried out within a reasonable period of time and without causing you significant inconvenience. Any repair should restore goods to a satisfactory condition. If this does not happen, you are entitled to a replacement or compensation. This could be a sum of money or the cost of hiring a temporary replacement, or perhaps the loan of a replacement.
With regard to the above two points. I had used the headphones for only a few weeks before noticing the faulty casing. They had had normal use. If anything they had had sub-normal use: because of their price tag I did not use them in the gym, while exercising, or in any other situation that would create unreasonable strain on the cable.
(3) If the fault is only minor and can easily be put right, it is reasonable to accept a repair. This won’t stop you claiming a replacement or refund if the repair turns out to be unsatisfactory. I did not come back to Currys wanting a refund, I would have been perfectly happy to exchange for the same product, or to have had the phones repaired. I was offered a refund by a member of staff because Dixon's/Currys were unable to provide a replacement.
(4) The trader must sort out your problem, not the manufacturer. the manager didn't appear to know this fact.
I bought, in good faith, a product that became faulty as a result of normal use within about 4 weeks of purchase. As the retailer it is their responsibility to help me to resolve this issue. I did not break the goods, I did not neglect them, and I followed the users instructions. Yet, I was made by Dixons/Currys to feel as though I am some kind of reprobate who wilfully destroys headphones. Dixons/Currys pushed me from pillar to post, fed me lies, gave me inconsistent information and wilfully neglected its duty of care to me as a consumer.
One of Dixons/Currys' staff agreed verbally to a full refund. This agreement is legally binding. The member of staff verified that she had made this agreement with me to her manager (in a conversation that they believed I could not hear).
Dixons/Currys staff repeatedly lied to me. The person in currys digital in Hove (the manager refused to give me her name - apparently I don’t have any rights to complain against people who are incompetent in their jobs) offered me a refund on behalf of Dixons/Currys and told me that she would phone me and that I would receive the full cost of the headphones back. I received no phonecall and or refund.
Dixons/Currys service (if you can call it that) is disgusting. I wrote a letter of complain (much of which this re view is lifted from), which they acknowledged but effectively ignored. Since this incident (2009) I have never bought anything from the Dixons/Currys/PC World group, and never will again. They simply do not care one iota about their customers.
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