UK INTERNATIONAL CONSUMER CENTRE THROUGH THE YEARS

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2009

Some cases were a bit bizarre!

It isn’t just run-of-the-mill cases we handle – there are bizarre ones too. Flowers, lipstick and a horse were just a few of the more unusual subjects dealt with by the UK ECC in its first two years. By the time the centre celebrated its second birthday in November 2009, it had established itself as the busiest centre within the European Consumer Centre network – handling a larger number of consumer enquiries in the previous year (2008) than any of its European counterparts in the other 28 centres at that time.

The UK ECC’s first manager, Jed Mayatt, said at the time: “We helped more than 8,000 UK consumers in 2008, topping the number dealt with by Italy (just under 8,000), Germany (just under 6,000) and Austria (just over 5,500).”

⇒ One UK consumer bought a £3,000 horse from a Swedish trader, but when the horse was delivered it was suffering from severe medical conditions that prevented it from being ridden. The consumer wanted her money back as a ‘suitable replacement’ could not be found, but the Swedish trader was unwilling to cooperate.

The UK ECC took the case up with its Swedish counterpart and it was passed straight away to the Swedish Equestrian Federation – an Alternative Dispute Resolution body (ADR) – which mediated.

This was certainly one of our more unusual cases. It was passed to the Federation due to the urgent nature of the complaint – the horse needed care and attention, plus further veterinary treatment. The ADR decision found in favour of the consumer. An agreement was reached regarding the horse’s return and £3,000 was reimbursed, along with several hundred pounds of damages – so this was definitely a success story for us.

⇒ A Romanian mother complained on behalf of her daughter, who had bought a €2 girls’ magazine with a free lipstick from a news-stall in Romania. The lipstick smelt badly and the consumer complained. A replacement free lipstick was secured from the UK distributor responsible for the magazine.

As this was a free gift and as such was not part of any contract, it was arguable whether the Consumer Sales Directive or the Sale of Goods Act 1979 applied (under which the consumer had the right to a repair or replacement if the goods were not of a satisfactory quality). But the trader came up with a replacement lipstick and another copy of the magazine, which was not necessarily expected and was a good result all round.

⇒ A man from Portugal ordered some flowers online to be delivered from a UK trader. But the flowers never arrived. After the UK ECC’s involvement, the consumer received a £9.99 refund. One of the common complaints about online shopping is non-delivery of goods ordered. When an order is placed, a consumer is normally given an indication of when the item will be received. Under the legislation at the time, the goods had to be delivered within 30 days of the order placement. If the 30 days was exceeded, the trader could find their contract cancelled and was obliged to give a refund within 30 days.

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