A reader bought an electric razor, but the seller claimed the buyer would have to pay a restocking fee to return the item. So what does the law say?
I bought an electric razor from the Daily Telegraph online shop. I am happy with the razor but the seller, Easylife, seems to have some onerous returns conditions. If the razor doesn’t meet with my complete satisfaction, I can return it within 14 days but it must be in an unused and resaleable condition. The terms also mention a 25 per cent restocking fee.
On face value these terms and conditions breach the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs). First, it is illegal to charge a restocking or administration fee, so the 25 per cent Easylife wants to charge would not be allowed. Likewise, a retailer cannot state the goods must be in original packaging and in a resaleable condition. So, stating that goods must be in a resaleable condition is, according to the DSRs, too subjective a statement and open to different interpretations of what is resaleable.
There are some exemptions under the DSRs, such as goods that are not returnable under this law, unless faulty. Razors may not fall into these categories, but the DSRs do take into account hygiene issues. “It may be reasonable for the supplier to stipulate… not removing hygiene seals.” However, it also states that “stipulations cannot restrict a consumer’s reasonable opportunity to inspect and assess the product.” Shaving with the razor may be considered a step too far and constitute ‘use’.
Mr Purslow wanted us to clarify the company’s terms for its 14-day trial period. It is legally allowed to offer its own returns policy and set its terms and conditions provided they are not unfair.
If you feel tempted to use this trial or any other companies’ trials, read the terms clearly. Easylife says you can open goods and ‘examine’ the product. But the next paragraph says if you wish to return the goods under the 14-day trial they must be unused. Easylife does not make it clear what is considered a fair examination and what it is considered ‘use’ of a product. We don’t think people usually need 14 days to ‘examine’ an item. People are better off sticking with the DSRs for protection because they can open the goods and examine them without being restricted by Easylife’s conditions.
We contacted the company but at the time of going to press had yet to receive a reply.
There are several goods and services that do not have the protection of the DSRs. These include “goods which by means of their nature cannot be returned” (such as personalised goods) or are likely to deteriorate or expire rapidly (such as dairy products). It could also extend to goods where hygiene may be a problem, including cosmetics, jewellery such as earrings and items such as razors.
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